Cricket Ireland’s new strategic plan launches with focus on qualification for World Cups
Cricket Ireland has stressed the need for greater central funding from the ICC and more context for their Test cricket, while launching its strategic plan for 2021-23.
Ireland have not played a Test since July 2019, when they bowled England out for 85 at Lord’s, and they will not play another until 2022 at the earliest, following a further postponement to their fixture away in Sri Lanka. They have prioritised white-ball cricket ahead of the three upcoming World Cups – two T20I, one ODI – and the inter-provincial system will not feature any first-class fixtures this summer.
Ahead of the publication of the new strategic plan – which aims to “strengthen our sport so that we are in a position to benefit and grow when the new ICC funding cycle begins” – Richard Holdsworth, CI performance director, emphasised the significant costs involved in staging Test cricket and the lack of context outside of the World Test Championship as the main reasons for Ireland’s limited fixture list in the format.
“There’s no doubt that we aspire to be a regular Test-playing nation – the board agrees, the coaches agree, and the players are desperate to play more Test cricket,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “But we’re prioritising white-ball cricket in this strategy because what is most important to the business is that we qualify for World Cups. In terms of funding, sponsorship, and commercial stakeholders, it’s important that we’re at the top table when it comes to World Cups.
“We don’t want to neglect the red-ball game but the reality is that with the budget we’ll have for the next three years, we have to prioritise in the right areas and we firmly believe that prioritising qualification for those three World Cups over the next three years is paramount, and we are continually challenged by the cost of hosting home Tests.”
“I don’t think it helps any of the three of us – Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe – to promote Test cricket without that context. It’s just one-off Tests here and there”
Ireland’s inaugural – and so far only – home Test, against Pakistan in 2018, cost the board nearly €1m (US$ 1.18 million approx.) to stage, with the ground in Malahide requiring expensive temporary infrastructure to turn it into a major venue. The strategic plan includes a commitment to putting processes in place for the stadium at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, three years after the board voted for its development, to be ready.
CI is also encouraging the ICC to reduce the minimum broadcast standards required to stage Tests, and is discussing the possibility of a second tier of the World Test Championship to guarantee them more regular fixtures 2023 onwards.
“Before we became full members, we were playing our part in putting the Future Tours Programme together and everything that was being discussed was “context, context, context”,” Holdsworth said. “But coming back to Test cricket, we were talking about context in everything – but Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe are playing Test cricket without any context at all.
“We’ve been communicating with the ICC and we believe that whatever that first division looks like, there needs to be some context for the next division down. I don’t think it helps any of the three of us to promote Test cricket without that context. It’s just one-off Tests here and there.
“It’s good to see the ICC’s board taking that seriously. If we don’t promote the three of us playing Test cricket then we’re down to nine teams, and where does that go? If there are only four or five Test teams in ten years’ time, that’d be disastrous for the sport. We can’t let that happen. We have to make sure there is competitive Test cricket out there. Let’s hope we get some context in the next cycle and we can allow for two divisions.”
The strategic plan highlights five priorities: qualification for all ICC tournaments, increasing participation at grassroots levels, establishing infrastructure and facilities required of a full member, growing the women’s game, and supporting the continuing development of the provincial unions.
Warren Deutrom, CI chief executive, said: “How certain of success can we be with this plan? Just consider the journey and achievements over the last decade – consider that we are now one of only 12 countries seated at the top table of the world’s second largest sport. Consider, too, the immense strength and depth of Irish cricketing heritage and structures within our sport.
“We have an innate belief in the ability of the Irish cricket community to endure, to adapt and to grow. We want Ireland to become a cricket island once more. And I hope the Irish cricket community can work with us on creating an increasingly vibrant, engaging and welcoming sport for all.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021
Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase
Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets
The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.
Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.
Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.
Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.
Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.
The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.
To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.
Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.
Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.
Eng vs Ind Women’s Test
“Maybe in the coming years it might also lead to a World Test Championship [for women]. You never know.”
“I feel this Test match and even the pink-ball Test, which is in Australia in the coming months, it’s just the beginning of having a three-format bilateral series,” Raj, India’s Test and ODI captain, said on the eve of the one-off Test against England in Bristol. “It probably opens up the channel to have another format added in a bilateral series and that will clearly help the overall standard of women’s cricket.
“Also, the players – I mean, you ask any modern-day cricketer, they still want to play the longer format because they eventually know that the format tests the skill of a player.”
The last time India played two or more Tests in a year was in 2014, which was also the last time they appeared in the format. The Bristol Test, which marks their return to red-ball cricket after a break of 2401 days, carries four points for a win under the multi-format system for the tour, which also includes three ODIs and three T20Is.
A draw will fetch the teams two points apiece and one point will be awarded for a no-result. Wins in the white-ball games will be worth two points each. The Ashes, which has been the only occasion that has involved Test matches in women’s cricket since 2014, follows the same grading system.
“It’s good to have the Test match in a series,” Raj said. ‘We [already] had the one-dayers and the T20Is. Maybe in the coming years it might also lead to a World Test Championship [for women]. You never know. This is just the beginning. I hope we continue to have bilateral series where all three formats are there.”
The announcement of both the Test against England and the pink-ball game against Australia, scheduled for September-October, was an unexpected development in Indian women’s cricket. On the international circuit, the ODI World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, to be played in the T20 format, both scheduled for next year, and the 2023 T20 World Cup remain the focal points of India’s long-term preparations. In domestic cricket, no red-ball tournaments for women’s cricketers have been held in India since the 2017-2018 season.
“There were a few sessions that we tried to have in the whites so that the girls don’t get [intimidated] when they walk into the ground tomorrow because for most of them it’s their first time getting into the ground in the whites,” Raj said. “That is one thing [Powar] tried to get into the sessions. There were four-five sessions where we trained together as a team in the whites, so we get a feel of it in the nets sessions and it doesn’t feel alien for the girls when they get onto the ground.
“He also got the seniors to speak to the other players who are less experienced about the format about the last time we played a Test match, so there was a lot of communication with Jhulan talking to the fast bowlers and I’m talking to the batters. So, I think when you have this communication going, it sort of gets the team get collectively prepared for the Test match.”
“In terms of marketing the sport, I think it is great to have a Test match live on television because clearly, a lot of people will follow, now with the pandemic [on] and there’s partial restrictions everywhere [because of lockdowns], so a lot of people will be watching the game,” she said. “As far as the players are concerned, it is equally important [to play well in this Test match]. Seven years back, the scenario was very different for women’s cricket.
“Having said that, that team never really thought whether the match is [covered] live or not; it never really crosses a players mind as long as we get in there and we put forward our best performance. Whether it is covered live or not, that’s [not] the players’ lookout. We are there to get there and give our best standard, and if it’s covered live, nothing like it because that’s how the sport will grow being viable.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
Warwickshire close to signing Che Simmons, 17-year-old dubbed ‘new Jofra Archer’
Barbadian fast bowler has UK passport and impressed on trial with 2nd XI
Having made an excellent impression, Simmons is expected to be offered a deal which might well include some type of scholarship in order that he can complete his education in the UK. He currently attends Combermere School, which has a rich history of producing top players. As well has current West Indies Test captain, Kraigg Brathwaite, Wes Hall, Clyde Walcott, Frank Worrall and Chris Jordan also attended the school. So did the singer, Rihanna.
A fast bowler with a beautiful smooth run-up and action, Simmons has represented Barbados Under-15s and came to prominence by claiming all 10 wickets in an innings while playing for the Franklyn Stephenson Academy. He finished with the remarkable figures of 10 for 16 from 5.3 overs. Only two of the runs he conceded came off the bat.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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