Saturday, 19 May 2012

Ireland Need More Full Member Fixtures

The main problem Ireland faces is a lack of competitive games, we need more exposure to the full member sides. Ireland is in associate level competitions. We play a four-day and a one day compeition among other associate countries. 

While we do compete in many fixtures this way. There is the outcry about the lack of challenges we face in the games. Ireland has a win ratio in the 95%+ range against the other associates sides.

When the news broke about the idea of limiting the 2015 World Cup to full member countries. The outcry was overwhelming, however Cricket Ireland chairman David Williams received a lot of support for the Irish side. He visited India after the announcement, with this he also met BCCI chairman Shashank Manohar. 

"One of our ambitions is to increase our ODI exposure against full members to between 10 to 15 per annum, and we received some support from Full Members to accommodate us," Williams said. "There is, without question, among all the Full Members chairmen I spoke to, considered to be very clear water between us and the rest of the Associates."

With South Africa and Bangladesh reportedly lending Ireland more support, for their push to get more games against the full members.

However the drive for games was given a big blow when Zimbabwe turned down an offer from Cricket Ireland, for a tour in late 2011. They cited the reason was because of a lack of a gap in their ICC future tours programmes and domestic calendar.

Although Ireland did receive a timely boost when Pakistan agreed to visit for a two match ODI series. A series which was won by Pakistan 2-0, despite the one sided affair in the first ODI. The second ODI was a far more level game, which had got the attention of many in the Pakistan side.

Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ijaz Butt said prior to the tour. ''The fight that the Irish team displayed at the World Cup lit up the event and has added a new flavour to international cricket.''

''We anticipate a hard fought series as the Irish team has shown that they are capable of playing against the best in the world''

Waqar Younis admitted to enjoying Paul Stirling's knock.

''It was an interesting game. Credit should be given to Ireland, especially Stirling''

"All the spectators would have enjoyed that knock, one of the best I've seen for a while.

"He doesn't slog, he plays proper cricket shots and even I enjoyed every bit of it. He hits the ball far, he has good footwork, plenty of time and he's not scared of the short ball. He looks a promising player."

''They have a solid top-order, but I think they struggle a bit in the middle order, although they missed a couple of players. They can make a good side, especially in these conditions''

If a team with a busy schedule like Pakistan can find time to come to Ireland for a two match ODI series. Then why can't the other bigger sides follow, especially with England being a stone's throw away from Irish shores.

England had come over for a ODI in 2011, however with bad weather the game got reduced significantly. England were the eventual winners by 11 runs (D/L method).

Ireland also received a formal request from the Bangladesh cricket board, for Bangladesh to tour Ireland in July. They sought to play a four-day game, two ODI's and also one or two T20i's.

Although the news was very positive to read, the plans were very nearly scuppered by financial constraints. As Cricket Ireland needed to raise between 120,000/150,000 in order to cover the Bangladesh's costs.

As Ireland is the host country, the bill would fall upon Ireland. As members of the Future Tours Programme, full Test playing members receive a grant from the ICC for costs incurred. They receive between €5.5/7 million for these costs. Whilst Ireland as an associate member receives a measly €520,000.

So people often question why Ireland hasn't invited more sides over to participate in games. Why we play so few games against full member sides.

Basically if Ireland are not faced with competing with the ICC Future Tour Programme, they also have to try to find funds that simply aren't there.

The budget Ireland has at present is being used for the hosting of Afghanistan, for a four-day Intercontinental Cup game and two World Cup qualifiers at the start of July. While also hosting the South African ''A'' squad for a highly anticipated month long tour in August. 

While also having Australia over for a once off ODI in Belfast in June. However that is expected to be self-funding after Sky Sports agreed to cover that game.

Maybe people while reading this will start to realise, how much restraints and road blocks Cricket Ireland and other associates come across trying to host games. Things that come without much fuss or effort for the full member sides. That get taken for granted by their fans are of hugely difficult proportions for the smaller sides. That the sums of money that cause no concern to them, are of great magnitude to the associates.

Ireland has put in a request to the ICC for extra funding to host full member tours, that their application coincided with Bangladesh having no cricket scheduled between May and August.

''We have put a request in with the ICC for Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme Funding (TAPP)," high performance director Richard Holdsworth said.

"The main part of that application has been to increase the numbers of matches with full members.

"CI chief executive Warren Deutrom and myself made that application to the ICC's Financial and Commercial Affairs committee. The idea of it is to bridge the gap between the top six full members, the remaining full members and the top two associates. "

Also with Bangladesh having their own plans for fixtures denied for different reasons. 

"Around that time, Bangladesh got in touch with Warren, and said: 'We would very much like to play Ireland'," Holdsworth continued.

"That is a little change in culture, for full members to be coming to us and asking for games! But it reflects how far Irish cricket has come."

Ireland eventually received the funding to go ahead with the tour. With the funding coming from the ICC's High Performance Program as well as ICC Europe. However the tour was reduced to 3 ODI'S for Ireland, whilst the Netherlands and Scotland also received one ODI each. While Ireland would also play a single warm-up game ahead of the three ODI'S.

It's a crime to cricket that the saga of this tour would take so long to be settled. For a small amount of 120,000/150,000 this tour had the strong possibility of not going ahead. In this day and age of cricketers receiving this sum of money for a few weeks works in the IPL, or in some cases an awful lot more. It would be sad for the true fans of cricket not to have a chance to witness this tour. 

As Ireland go in search for more games, they submitted a proposal to play 12/15 ODI'S a year to recognise their rising standards. Under their proposal, the ICC would help to identify the gaps in the existing Future Tours Programme where Ireland could be accommodated for ODI'S.

Cricket Ireland tried to validate their case that they've rapidly outgrown their fellow associates and need further challenges. The senior side coached by Phil Simmons, has won 30 of its last 33 games against associate members of the ICC. While also have notable big name scalps against Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, West Indies and England. While also running many major sides very close.

"Our battle is to convince ICC to fund cricket nations on the basis of merit and need, not of entitlement," Deutrom said.

As Ireland continue its fight to have a seat among the full members, they will need to at least get more games and funding. At present with the funding we do receive and the games we our given, we are doing marvellous things. 

With the wealth of the ICC and other full member sides, I think it should fall upon them to help the associate countries out. When a full member like India tours England, why not send their ''A'' squad over to help Ireland out. Or even play some of their warm up games against Ireland.

Often the English county sides who participate in these warm up games, don't always field their strongest sides. Recently Sussex played the West Indies in a warm up game, ahead of the West Indies tour of England. However several of the Sussex first team had been rested ahead of a more important county championship game.

I'm not saying Ireland can always guarantee victory against these big sides. However we always give it 110%, if we can only get more competitive fixtures against the Test sides, we can only improve from the experience.

If we can compete as we are now with the few games we are given, from the scraps of the full members table. Then one can only imagine how successful we could be with a lot more consistent flow of games. 

If we can produce the quality of players we are doing so now, with the limited funding we do receive. One can think of the quality of players we would produce in the future, with the funding to build more training academies, the stadiums and improvements on currently running clubs.

I understand Ireland is one associate member, whilst all other associates also dream of playing more full member sides. However my opinion comes from Ireland being the leading light of associates. While other associates haven't always performed when put on the big stage. Ireland always produces when given the chance.

Some might think the full member sides are worried, dreading to think that they could be the next scalp for Ireland. As Ireland continues to improve, the regularity of our scalps will come more and more often, till a time when people realise we are no longer minnows and are a potent and powerful side.

''Ireland have proudly carried the associates' standard for two World Cups in succession. They're not asking for free lunches, just for a fair chance'' Dileep Premachandran

Without naming other countries, Ireland has not been given a free ride in any of this. Anything Ireland has achieved, it's from their own work. Or for the way they have conducted themselves on the cricket field and off the field. We have battled for everything we have received and this side is still willing to battle some more...


  1. Good one Colm....Ireland sure do need the canvas to hone and display their skills, and even if they can play strong Ind, SL, Eng and Aus 'A' teams regularly, they'll prolly become more well rounded. Cheers
    Rajesh Ramaswamy

  2. Yeah, I was one of those person who used to think that Ireland is a good team and has some very good talent, than why don't they play International cricket regularly and now I know that answer is "Money". Well ECB, BCCI and other cricket board should do something about it and help Irish board and team to rise up... I love to watch Ireland's matches

  3. I loved this piece mate.. Keep it up. I love to support Ireland cuz its hard working team.
    Love from Pakistan.

    Comment from"Najeeb khan"

  4. well nice article colm and this should not be the case but still if the national side tour is not possible atleast tours with 'A' sides should be arranged

  5. Not Suddenly we can expect a Bilateral series among Ireland & other full member teams but yes we can expect a 2-3 ODI series thrice a Year ...