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CRICKET: Time for Ireland to give test cricket a craic

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COMING towards the end of the group stage, there have been plenty of stories already from the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

There has been England’s lameness, New Zealand showing everyone they are serious contenders for the title, Afghanistan’s first World Cup win, Chris Gayle’s double century and lots of big scores. It has been an exciting tournament so far and it will surely only get better once the quarter finals start on March 18.

Perhaps the biggest story to come out of the group stage was the win by Ireland over the West Indies. Just five games into the competition and there was a big shock to talk about. True, the men from the Caribbean are as far away from their best sides in the 1970s and 1980s as one of Gayle’s monster sixes and the Irish side are the best associate nation around, but it was still a big win for the Emerald Island team.

Within the reaction the score provoked, there were calls for Ireland to get elevated to full member status by the ICC and be allowed to compete in test cricket. Among those who called for this was former West Indian fast bowler and now television commentator Michael Holding. Before now, it has also been a topic of great discussion in the cricket world. Is it time to let Ireland in as the 11th member of the test club?

If you ask me, I think the only answer is yes.

The ICC has said the winners of the next Intercontinental Cup will then get the chance to play against the lowest ranked test nation. If they win that series, they will be given test status from 2019.

Ireland are the hot favourites to get this chance as they have won four of the six competitions since it was launched in 2004. They are the most stable of the associate members financially and administratively too, which has played a big part in their success. 

However, to force Ireland to go through the process one more time just to act as a sort of pre-test test seems a little demeaning to the team. What else do they have to prove? They have already shown they are the best of the chasing pack and have scalps at the World Cup against notable opponents like the West Indies, England and Pakistan. They also have a team which sees the majority of its squad playing professional cricket with English counties.

As pointed out by Holding, there would be a number of benefits for the team too. The main one being their most talented players not fleeing to England so they can chase greater prizes in the sport. Ireland are going through the current World Cup with Eoin Morgan, one of the most gifted batsmen to come from their nation, captaining the lads from across the Irish Sea. Viscous fast bowler Boyd Rankin has also left their ranks and defected to the Three Lions as did Ed Joyce, although he eventually returned to his motherland.

It would also give them the opportunity to develop their side and future players in their country. At the moment, they are hitting a glass ceiling when it comes to pushing forward with the sport as they are forced to keep playing matches away from the view of most fans. Playing test cricket will give them more coverage and that will bring them more opportunities and funding. This can then be ploughed back into the game from grassroots level upwards in Ireland. At the same time, the test cricket carrot can be dangled out to inspire players across the land to improve and come to the fore.

Another chance to show their credentials comes on Saturday when they play Zimbabwe in Hobart. If they can record a win against the current side propping up the Test Championship standings, it would be a real message to the cricket hierarchy that they are good enough to contend with the top ten nations in the sport. In the Twenty20 rankings, they already sit above Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and beating two test nations in one tournament will be a big statement, even if they are among the weaker teams.

Come on the ICC. The time to bring Ireland into the test arena is now, not 201

Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : George Thorpe

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