Guess how many One-Day Internationals Ireland played in the intervening period between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups? All of 25, the majority against their fellow Associate nations, and nine against Full Member countries—England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
This is absolutely ridiculous and a travesty and the blame lies squarely with the ICC and Full Member countries, who for reasons best known to them have deemed that playing or hosting Ireland won’t get them footfalls inside the stadiums or money from sponsors. Anyone hear about this being done to help develop and harness the potential of the most promising of the Associate countries?
Ireland, for their part, have pleaded for more playing opportunities with the top countries over the last few years. But as to be expected, nothing has come of it. And, the ICC has conveniently washed its hands off and said it can’t force the full members to play against the Associates. Talk about the parent body spreading and promoting the game!
The Irish haven’t let this blatant indifference bog them down though and instead have impressed in every World Cup that they have played in scalping some big guns along the way. In 2007 it was Pakistan; in 2011 England; and on February 16, 2015 at Nelson, New Zealand, it was West Indies’ turn to be run over by the green brigade.
The wins over Pakistan and England were upsets, but Ireland’s triumph over West Indies in the 2015 World Cup certainly wasn’t one; and that’s as much of a testament to their rise as it is to West Indies’ decline.
Ireland were set a stiff target of 305 at Nelson and right from the outset, it was apparent they had a plan and were confident of increasing West Indies’ woes. Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien put the Windies bowlers to the sword, and at no stage did it appear that the young West Indies captain Jason Holder had any ideas on how to stem the rot and neither was he helped in this endeavour by the senior players.
The body language of the West Indies players was defeatist, and even when Ireland stumbled towards the finish line, did they appear nervous or jittery. In fact, it appeared that Ireland was the Full Member country!
Ireland captain William Porterfield was confident on the eve of the match against West Indies, and he was understandably elated after Ireland’s win. Porterfield said he believed Ireland were good enough to be treated as equals, and he has more than a point there. The win against West Indies has put Ireland in a good position to qualify for the quarter-finals, and that would be accomplishment indeed for this determined group of cricketers.
"The term an upset, anything from minnows to associate, I don't see why a team has to be an associate or a team has to be a full member," Porterfield said. "Sure you're ranked one to whatever but it's not like that in any other sport and I don't see why it has to be like that in ours."
It is this talent, exuberance and positive attitude that improves the sport globally, and with the ICCs decision to cut the 2019 World Cup to only 10 countries, opportunities for the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan to compete with the best, will be reduced to almost zero; and that would be a slight on the game.
Ireland has already lost Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin to England, and there’s a real risk that some of their other promising talent could follow suit. Should that happen, the progress taken by Ireland in the last eight years would be reversed, and that would take away so much from the game.
ICC, over to you!