Drysdale’s Column: More Ireland ODI’s
I know that some people might be fed up of having questions of nationality flung at them, so let’s make it quick.
If you were a cricketer in the Associate world at the moment, where would you prefer to be playing?
Would it be in Scotland, where high-profile ODIs are thin on the ground and there is a painful dearth of opportunities to prove your worth against high-calibre opposition?
Or would you rather be involved in Ireland, with the ICC Full Members almost falling over themselves to organise international fixtures?
Obviously, it’s a loaded question. And although the Scots might be pleased to be hosting next week’s ICC meeting in Edinburgh, where many aspects of the sport’s future will be discussed, there is no disguising the unpalatable truth.
Which is that Grant Bradburn’s side are perceived as having failed at the highest level and – for the moment – are not deemed worthy of top-class contests against the globe’s leading nations.
Whereas, Ireland, who have a feast of mouth-watering tussles lined up over the next 12 months, are almost in a position where they have an embarrassment of riches.
Yet, here’s the rub. Yes, it’s clearly a coup for the canny Irish chief executive, Warren Deutrom, that England will host Ireland in a one-day international series for the first time in 2017.
The two sides will meet at Bristol on 5 May and again at Lord’s on 7 May in the build-up to the Champions Trophy.
“This is a historic stepping stone in the development of Irish cricket,” said England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison.
“This is a great opportunity for cricket matches between the two to enjoy even greater status and profile.”
In the short term, it’s a great opportunity for Ireland, who are ranked 11th in one-day international cricket, but have never played an ODI at Lord’s.
And one could readily understand why Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom responded: “It’s a real chance for Irish cricket to prove itself a worthy addition to the sport’s economy as well as its competitive elite.”
But I wonder if they aren’t being given these chances five years too late for most of the current incumbents.
After all, if you look at the fashion in which the Irish have performed for the last year, they have hardly set the heather on fire. They were beaten by lowly Oman at the World T20 event in India and thrashed twice in Dublin by Sri Lanka earlier this month.
Nobody doubts the quality, commitment or motivation of such hard-bitten customers as the O’Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, Paul Stirling, Boyd Rankin, Ed Joyce and Porterfield himself.
He told me recently: “We have to keep pushing forward. We know we can’t afford to talk about what we did two or three years ago.”
And that could be the problem, not just for them, but the ICC. Because, in the space of a few months, the governing body has carried out a spectacular flip-flop.
From a situation where the Associates were being left to wither on the vine, they are now being expected to tackle Full Members in the full glare of the spotlight.
Ireland will meet Pakistan twice this summer, then travel to South Africa to play the latter and Australia, as the prelude to the brace of English battles next summer.
What happens if they lose all these games? And, worse still, lose them comprehensively? Wouldn’t the ICC be better employed creating a new global ODI structure with ALL the Associates which would generate a coherent fixture schedule?
None of this is intended to detract from the Irish exploits in the last decade. But, 10 years ago, they were definitely second in the pecking order to Scotland.
Who’s to say that situation won’t materialise again at the same time as the ICC flings Porterfield’s personnel into the lions’ den?
Of course, it would be better for Scotland’s best players if they were given the same chances in the spotlight. But they did have 9 matches in the World Cup and World T20 and the only side they defeated was Hong Kong.
Therefore, let’s credit the Irish with having moved to a new level. I just fear it might be slightly on the wrong side of the hill!
Cricket Scotland unveiled its new coaching structure last week and immediately provoked plenty of criticism from the north-east fraternity.
I think they are justified in being apprehensive. Because the fashion in which the Eastern Knights and Western Warriors are gathering momentum points to a worrying state of affairs.
Both these sides have experienced coaches in place, who can plan for the future. The Highlanders, in contrast, have Graham Beghin, who has done good work in the north of the country, but is only contracted until the end of the summer.
Once he leaves, what happens then? And why is it that so many players in the north are being encouraged to move to Edinburgh and Glasgow to advance their international prospects.
I know this to be true of Aberdeenshire paceman, Adrian Neill, who left Mannofield for Goldenacre just a few days before the start of the new season.
And there is little doubt the Highlanders are the weakest of the three regional collectives.
In that light, they need all the help they can get. Not the message: “East and West is Best”.