John Mooney of Ireland is congratulated by team mates, after running out Graeme Smith of South Africa during the 2011 ICC World Cup Group B match between Ireland and South Africa at Eden Gardens on March 15, 2011 in Kolkata, India.

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The ICC plans to reconsider its decision to exclude the associates from next World Cup. This comes as great news to the associates, in particular Ireland who impressed one and all with a good show in the recently-concluded World Cup. When the ICC announced that the next World Cup would be a 10-team event, it surprised one and all. There were the one sided games in this World Cup involving the minnows, but that was just one side of the coin. Ireland was by far the most competitive associate and put in very spirited performances which strengthened the case for the minnows.

 

The World Cup is the grandest event and it gives the associates the platform to play at the highest level. The inclusion of the associates in the signature event has been done right since the first edition held way back in 1975. This strategy has helped in bringing new teams to the Test arena. Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh mainly emerged due to their performances in the World Cup, where they impressed to gain Test status.

 

However, with so much one-day cricket being played today, merely participating in the World Cup would not help the associates develop into better units. They need to play the bigger teams on a more regular basis to get exposure and experience. Kenya, who took the world by storm during the 2003 World Cup, did not play too many matches against the Test playing nations after that tournament. This has been one of the main reasons why Kenya did not develop into a better side after showing fantastic promise.

 

Ireland as a team has evolved enormously during the course of the last four years. When they qualified for the super eights in the 2007 World Cup, it stunned one and all but they weren’t as competitive or impressive as they were in the latest edition.

 

They beat England in a thriller, which was probably the best match of the tournament. They also made India, West Indies and Bangladesh stretch to earn their victories. These are signs of a very competitive unit which can develop into a much stronger side.

 

Now is the time when they should play the Test-playing nations more regularly. This would give their players exposure to different sides and conditions and would give them the experience required to succeed at the highest level. The team that tours England in the summer plays an ODI against Ireland but one or two matches a year against the big boys is not going to help the Irish much. Playing these matches at home isn’t of much help as it restricts their experience to known territories.

 

Thus, when the ICC sits down to reconsider its decision; they should also try to make a plan to help Ireland develop into a better side. After Zimbabwe lost their Test status in 2005, they were allowed to tour one Test playing nation and host one in the course of a calendar year for an ODI series. The same should be done with Ireland.

 

During the World Cup, one of the commentators suggested that Ireland should be allowed to tour at least one major Test playing nation in a year for a minimum of three One-Day Internationals. Apart from that, I think they should also host one three-match series at home. The next year they should tour and host different teams. This would give them the opportunity to play in different conditions which is vital for the development of a team.

 

The lack of matches at the highest level has made a few Irish players turn to England. Edmund Joyce played for England but has now returned to Ireland. The biggest loss for Ireland has been Eoin Morgan. They lost a fantastic talent to England where he gets the opportunity to play Test cricket and many more internationals. If Ireland does not get too many games in the next few years, they risk losing very talented players to their neighbors.

 

Ireland have shown fantastic promise in this World Cup. The next four years are very crucial to their development. The more they play, the better they would become. The win against England showed us what they are capable of and players like Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Paul Stirling, William Porterfield, George Dockrell, to name a few, deserve the big stage. World cricket probably missed the best of the likes of Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo to name a few. The same shouldn’t happen with the talented Irish players.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)

 

Pictures © Getty Images