Warren Deutrom – CEO of Cricket Ireland
Warren Deutrom is one of life’s optimists. And he needs that quality, as the chief executive of Cricket Ireland.
As he said, when we hooked up on Monday: “If I wasn’t a glass-half-full type of person, I think I would have walked away years ago. But if you keep pushing and doing your best, eventually you can move things forward.”
On the field, at least, Deutrom’s players have punched way above their weight since he took over the reins in 2006 and much of their drive, determination and desire mirrors the ambitious and ardent philosophy of the man at the helm.
Yet, despite famous victories over the likes of England, the West Indies and Pakistan at the World Cup, and a concerted period of supremacy on the Associate circuit, the Irish have been pushing hard against a door which the ICC has striven to slam firmly in their face.
It would have been frustrating for any individual, but particularly so for somebody such as Deutrom, who is a whole-hearted believer in a meritocracy and refuses to ask anybody for special favours.
Indeed, even as he accentuated the positives, he took pains to stress his disappointment over Ireland’s performance in the qualifying event for the ongoing World T20 event in India, where William Porterfield’s side were beaten, first by Oman and then The Netherlands.
“It would be arrogant if I didn’t describe that as anything other than a reality check, but we are going to hold a review into our T20 displays over the last year, not just the last month, and we have got to take a long, hard look at ourselves.
“I suppose it has shown how difficult it is to be competitive in three different versions of the game and there aren’t many other countries who are doing well in Tests or the Intercontinental Cup, 50-over ODIs and T20s at the same time, so we might have to prioritise.
“But we want to move forward by our own efforts and commitment and by working with the clubs and our provinces, so we realise this is a long-term challenge.”
Deutrom’s a little coiled spring of hyperactivity and he has been exasperated by the recent efforts of the ICC’s “Big Three” – India, Australia and England – to steer the future of the sport in a direction which suits them, rather than concentrating on the bigger picture.
Yet, he detects that the widespread condemnation of controversial moves, such as limiting the 2019 World Cup to just 10 teams, have persuaded the global governing body to think again.
As he said: “It seems there is a pathway towards Test cricket now being created for those who aspire to that level, and that is a positive development, because I believe we have to stop limiting ourselves to thinking of cricket in terms of Full Members. Associates and Affiliates.
“We should be more like football where every nation has a ranking and everybody has the opportunity to move upwards.
“It seems to be the same in ODIs, where we only have 12 teams with an ICC ranking, and yet there is plenty of evidence from recent results achieved by teams like ourselves, Afghanistan, Scotland, The Netherlands, UAE and Oman, that lots of countries are making improvements.
“Of course, we need more games against the Test teams. But we’re not alone in that. And, to be fair, the ICC is trying to come up with a revised fixture programme, which I think will show they understand they can’t just focus on a few nations.
“This year, for instance, we are playing two ODIs against Sri Lanka, two against Pakistan, one against South Africa and another against Australia (the latter two away from home), and I’m pleased about that.
“I’m also heartened by the news that the winners or maybe even the first two in the I-Cup could get the chance to move up to Test level.
“But it all has to be in small steps. And the key words have to be accountability and meritocracy.”
The Irish have been planning for long-form cricket for several years now, after starting multi-day matches in 2013. They also have a provincial system, which seems to be better developed than in Scotland.
So what are the main issues for Deutrom to address as he casts his gaze forward?
He said, without missing a beat: “There has to be a system which works and satisfies as many people as people, one where we listen to the clubs and they interact with the provinces, and we help the best players push onwards, without ignoring the grassroots.
“Personally, I still believe Ireland can strive to play Test cricket in the future. But we have to build up to that properly; we can’t leave our players as rabbits in the headlights.”
A decade on, the fire still burns brightly.