Thursday, 27 December 2012

2013 may prove year of Evolution for Cricket Ireland

Since 2007 and Ireland's qualification for the super eight section of the world cup the Irish cricket team has lived on a slow upward curve which has generally included 2 or 3 games a season against the games full member nations.
Following persistent lobbying by the impressive Warren Deutrom and his Cricket Ireland board to the ICC funding has been secured for the most impressive outlay of international fixtures yet accompanied by the first season of a domestic provincial system intended as the first step on Ireland's journey towards test cricket. Undoubtedly this season provides many challenges which if overcome successfully can convert the way Cricket is thought of in Ireland for the next ten years.
   The toughest task which will be caused on the back of a season full with fixtures may well be maintaining Ireland's players relationships with their counties something which has been predominantly good for those players playing abilities over the last few years. Warwickshire's refusal to release their players to play in the Bangladesh Premier League in the January off season combined with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club's stance of not allowing their players compete in the upcoming Indian Premier League show English counties are less and less willing to see their players make fleeting contributions to the club over the course of a season because of other commitments. International releases are of course mandatory for English Counties however the lack of substantial compensation to the club for their loss may well prove to be a sticking point this year above others. The current set of fixtures include a tour of the UAE in March and the Netherlands in July as well as another trip to the Emirates in October for the WT20 2014 qualifiers with home fixtures either being organised or finalized against Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Scotland and England. The probable fixtures include a minimum of 4 first class matches (UAE, Australia, Netherlands & Scotland), 9 One Day Internationals (UAE, Pakistan, Netherlands, Scotland & England) as well as potentially 10 T20 internationals between a series against Bangladesh and World Cup qualifiers in October. While some of these fixtures may well fall outside of the English domestic season(Something which still irks the counties) many do not meaning players could spend as much time with their Irish teammates as their county their primary paymasters this summer. While as EU citizens Irish players will always be attractive to county clubs, a high volume of International fixtures inevitably makes them less attractive. Some negotiations may be required behind the scenes to ensure Irish players continue to earn contracts in England with potential solutions including financial compensation or as adopted by the Argentinean rugby union team for their recent internationals agreeing to not use players in certain games where the greater benefit would be to their clubs. Luckily cricket administrators in Ireland have already shown themselves to be skilled negotiators in this regard.
Aside from this, the headache of where to play the upcoming internationals exists. The three strongest provinces have upgraded facilities at their best clubs with the aim of eventually hosting internationals. The fact that temporary seating is required at all facilities means that concentrating games at one venue and hence keeping it ready is what is likely to be most beneficial for the union but unsatisfactory to the various clubs. A venue or two similar in appearance, shape and capacity to perhaps the Brandywell in Derry the home of Derry City FC which coincidentally once held cricket games would prove a suitable solution and maybe what is ultimately planned for Malahide.  My opinion is that despite the potential gains of showing cricket in Ireland to a wide audience one strong venue with permanent seating will be required to maximize revenues and minimize costs going forward.
These natural growing pains will in time be replaced by problems such as team selection, results and weather but will hopefully transform the administrative requirements around the Irish Cricket team forever.

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