Player Spotlight: William Porterfield
Ever since he embarked on his love affair with cricket, William Porterfield has been dreaming of playing at the highest level of the game. And when we spoke this week, it was impossible not to detect the Irish captain’s enthusiasm as he contemplated the prospect of walking on to the Test stage a few years hence.
Yet there is something refreshingly ambitious and single-minded about Porterfield, whose career has been inextricably linked with his side’s success since he made his ODI debut against Scotland back in 2006.
This fellow isn’t remotely interested in notions of honourable defeats or fulfilling the job description of “minnow”. Instead, as the skipper of the Associate team which has beaten the likes of England, Pakistan and the West Indies at different World Cups, the 31-year-old Warwickshire batsman is determined to press ahead with the task of meeting and beating the ICC’s Full Members.
Ireland have another brace of opportunities to enhance their reputation when they tackle Sri Lanka in Dublin next week and Porterfield didn’t pull his punches in assessing his men’s challenge against opponents who have generally been outclassed on their tour of England.
“We have the talent to win these matches and we have to make the most of these opportunities, because they still don’t happen too often,” said the man, who has been part of the Irish set-up since he was captaining their under-13s.
“There’s also the incentive that we have never won an ODI in Dublin, so that is something we want to put right. We should have beaten England at Malahide and we drew with Pakistan – after chasing 275 – in 2013. So we know we can go out and compete. But we also know that we are in a results business, so these games are very important.
“Sri Lanka might have lost the Test series against England. But they showed signs of improvement at Durham, so we realise we will have to be at our best when they arrive.”
Porterfield was among the Associate personalities who spoke most passionately about the emerging nations being offered a fair crack of the whip by the ICC after the governing body announced it was reducing the number of participants at the next World Cup in 2019.
So, as you might anticipate, he has been delighted by the news that they are now considering plans for a two-tier Test structure with promotion and relegation, which could feature the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan and Scotland in the future.
“I think it’s great and it is something which had to happen, not just to develop the game, but also to safeguard and improve the Test structure round the world,” said Porterfield. “It means that every series will count and there will be points at stake in every single match, so I believe it is a very good system.
“Obviously, we have wanted something like this to happen and the Irish authorities have been building up the infrastructure for the last eight or nine years, because it’s not as if these things happen overnight.
“It probably won’t come into being for the next three or four years, but I want to spell it out that any new Test teams have got to keep pushing ahead. If we get the chance, it will be terrific to reach the pinnacle of the sport. But I honestly think Ireland can’t stand still: it’s not about playing Tests, it’s about being competitive and winning these matches.
“That has been the attitude of the Irish, on and off the pitch, and you can trace it back over a decade ago. It has been a long journey, but there is no point in thinking that becoming a Test-playing country is the end of it. This is what we have been aiming towards, but nobody is interested in just making up the numbers.”
He might be 34 or 35 by the time the Test scenario comes to fruition, but Porterfield made it clear he isn’t getting ahead of himself. From his perspective, the Sri Lanka fixtures are the priority, in advance of summer tussles at home to Pakistan and abroad against South Africa and the Australians in the autumn.
As he concluded: “This is an exciting time and there is a lot of excitement around the squad. But we have to keep showing we are improving. And getting that first win in Dublin….”