Ger Siggins (Sunday Independent)
AFTER more than ten years running Irish cricket and pushing its case in powerful international circles, Warren Deutrom has become adept at juggling. So, when the news he was hoping for came through from Dubai on Wednesday, he was faced with a dilemma.
Strolling home after a morning coffee in Malahide, in his right hand was the hand of his wife, Ingrid; in his left the phone on which he had just heard the news that Ireland’s road to test cricket had suddenly opened.
Unable to punch the air, Ingrid came to his rescue with a well-deserved hug. It is now close to the end of the road on which Deutrom set off soon after he came here in 2006. The stunning vote in Dubai this week means Cricket Ireland will spend the next few weeks updating and polishing the application to become a Test-playing member of ICC that has been ready to go for some years.
“After the proposal was tabled in February, we got sight of the criteria that would be used, so we began checking could we meet them. We believe we are comfortably placed in the majority of areas.
“ICC will formally invite us to apply, and give us a closing date which will have to be around the end of May to allow time to assess our application and make a recommendation in time to go in front of the June meeting.
“If they approve, and I’m anxious to stress it is not a straightforward penalty kick, it will be finalised at the ICC AGM beginning June 19th.”
The only fear is that India, the financial powerhouse of world cricket, will unleash a backlash that could swamp Ireland – and Afghanistan –and even derail the Champions Trophy, due to start in England on June 1. India suffered a humiliating 13-1 defeat in the vote to approve a finance model up to 2023 that sees them take $100m more than anyone else – but $270m less than they want.
Even nations such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, hitherto virtual pawns of the India board, voted for a fairer deal. But it’s not good politics to leave a nation as powerful as India is on the wrong side of such a vote, and Deutrom insists that nobody wants India to feel so aggrieved, and recognises that efforts will have to be made to bring them back inside the tent.
“Nothing in world cricket works in a straight line, and there have been many twists since the Big Three reforms came about three years ago. If you had suggested then that we would be on the brink of applying to play tests, or be a full member, bringing a total transformation of Irish cricket…”
There have been huge setbacks along the way, but Deutrom gives full credit to the chairmen who backed the vision, notably Murray Power, David Williams and, currently, Ross McCollum.
“Many people have been involved in getting us to where we are, not least the players but also coaches, umpires, volunteers, clubs, provinces, staff and the various organisations that support us.”
To crown a huge week, Deutrom was able to unveil a shirt sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines that propels the organisation into the same air breathed by Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Man United and EPC Rugby.
It will help Ireland to enter a new era well placed to build on the achievement, and to strive to ensure they achieve on-field competitiveness. They will rise hand-in-hand with Afghanistan, who now look a stronger side and have grown even faster than Ireland off the pitch.
As a rare good news story in that benighted land, the ACB has benefited from huge funding from governments in the US, Italy and Germany, as well as MCC and ICC. From almost nothing 15 years ago the ACB now has a staff of 200, five stadiums and 12 regional academies. Ireland can only dream of such a scenario.
Unfortunately, the decade Ireland spent as Associate top dog coincided with few opportunities to test themselves against the bigger teams. Outside tournaments, Ireland have played a top-eight side only 23 times in 11 years.
The class of 2007 has drifted into retirement and their replacements have started losing to sides they previously thumped. It must concern Cricket Ireland that the promised land has been reached with several Moses’s left behind and more than half the side well into their 30s.
This week’s ODIs in Bristol and Lord’s sees Ireland take on an England side warming up for the Champions Trophy for which they are joint-favourites. England have allowed Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes to stay in India playing IPL, but captain Eoin Morgan is back to captain for the fourth time against Ireland, and has a scarily-strong side at his back.
Ireland are missing the injured Boyd Rankin, but can be cheered by the early season form of William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson and George Dockrell.
Nine of the squad will turn out in the first game of the interprovincial season at Skerries on Monday, when a large bank holiday crowd is expected.
The interpros have been upgraded to first-class status by ICC, which will give it added attraction. It kicks off a busy month, with six ODIs and an all-important application to be submitted,
Deutrom backs off any suggestion of personal satisfaction, but concedes “I’ve never been more proud of anything… but only if we get it across the line in June.”