Cricket is passed down the generations, so it sometimes seems if youngsters inherit caps from their fathers. Four of the Ireland squad that took on Afghanistan recently are sons of ex-internationals, while three have had brothers and another an uncle who wore the shamrock.
The arguments over nature versus nurture will rage in future over the Tector brothers, Jack (22), Harry (19) and Tim (15), all captains of Ireland at different levels this summer.
Their father, Heatley, was a club player who had what he called a ‘banana ball’ that swung a lot but rarely at his behest.
No, the trio’s sporting genes come from a generation back, through Wexford-born grandfathers, Bill Tector and Tom Dixon. Bill won three caps for Ireland at rugby in 1955, watched at Lansdowne Road by his great friend and hurling legend Tim Flood who risked a ban for doing so.
Grandad Tom was a hurler too, left-corner-forward on the Wexford side that won the 1956 All-Ireland. Their grandsons never played hurling and dropped out of rugby in third year at Sandford Park because they were already hooked on cricket.
Sitting on the benches overlooking their YMCA club ground in Sandymount, Jack recalled his first day there.
“Dad brought me down to watch a first team game with Alan Lewis and Angus Dunlop playing, but I met the coach who brought me down to the nets and he spent two or three hours with me that day.”
Jack was nine then, and every one of his 13 summers since has been spent under the care of that coach, Kamal Merchant, who first came here from Pakistan as a professional player but made his name as a brilliant moulder of young talent.
“Kamal has been hugely influential on all of us”, says Jack. “He’s always there to talk to and have sessions, morning, noon and night. But also being around lots of young cricketers with ambitions to be professionals, such as Simi Singh has been a big motivation to us all down here.”
The Tectors parents housed several of the YMCA professionals, which proved a boon to their children’s sporting development.
“Simi and Albert van der Merwe lived with us,” explains Harry. “That was fantastic, to be able to talk cricket with them all the time.
“The patio cricket got very competitive,” chuckles Tim.
The older pair each captained Ireland at U15, U17 and U19 level, and both also led the Wolves, the Ireland A team. Jack was called into the senior squad last summer for John Bracewell’s last home game, against Netherlands, but his only appearances have been in non-cap friendlies against Somerset and Sussex.
He believes he’s ready now if Graham Ford calls.
“I played against the Bangladesh full team last year and that went OK [he made 60] which was a big confidence boost. The way the interpros are now, facing the likes of Boyd Rankin you can really see where your game is at.”
He made three fifties in two championship games before he fractured a finger which saw him sit out the eight-week heatwave.
He returned to lead the Ireland Academy to victory last month in a tournament in London, contributing two big innings. In last week’s interpro he lined up for Leinster against Harry, now a Northern Knight, and both made fifties.
Harry shares Jack’s ambitions. “I just want my first cap as soon as possible. Jack and I are very different cricketers so it’s not like we’re competing directly for a spot. When it happens it will happen. But you have to score a lot of runs and take a lot of wickets first.
“And whenever you go up a level you have to keep doing that and that’s one thing I was disappointed with against Bangladesh ‘A’ this summer. But I learnt a lot and realise that’s what I need to work on.
“Game-wise I’m probably not ready yet, but I’m not far off. But there’s a lot of brilliant players ahead of me so I’m just going to get the head down and work hard in Australia this winter.”
Tim, just turned 15, is aiming to make the squad for the U19 World Cup qualifiers next July.
“I’m planning to work hard over winter and try to push into the squad.”
When you ask most young players how they did on tour, they’ll reel off their own scores. Tim tells you they played Middlesex, Berkshire, Jersey and Scotland and won seven out of nine games, “and won the Celtic Cup”.
It’s only when you push him on his own contribution that he admits “I did all right”.
He scored centuries against Middlesex and Jersey.
Jack’s summer was more frustrating.
“I was really disappointed not to play the Wolves games. It opened my eyes though – you don’t know how lucky you are to be in those squads till you aren’t.”
In the Sunday Independent last year, Ed Joyce singled Jack out as the player he’d been most impressed by since he returned from England: “(he’s) got a great temperament and a very good technique. He has things to work on but he knows that and he’ll do the work.”
Jack agrees. “This is my first year on an interpro contact so I’ve been able to feel like a professional, training with the guys the whole time. Since Joycey came in on a coaching role I’ve found him brilliant to work with, not just the skills but his experience, his mentality – just talking to him you learn so much. Every day he has new ideas.”
The Tectors are part of the first generation of Irish players who can see a career in cricket, the ambition for all three.
“You’d be stupid if you’re in the position we are in now not to try and be a professional cricketer in Ireland,” says Harry.
“The opportunities are there – the new centre, the stadium, the FTP – that really drives me to be a professional cricketer, sooner rather than later.”
Ireland's capped trio of brothers
Casey (Tom, Philip, George – 1867-84)
Fitzgerald (Francis, John, Edward – 1883-91)
Gwynn (Lucius, Arthur, Robin – 1892-1902)
Hamilton (Drummond, Lowry, Blaney – 1883-1907)
Hones (Nat, Leland, Jeffrey – 1868-88)
Joyce (Ed, Gus, Dom – 1997-2018)
And one Waringstown quartet…
Harrison (Roy, Jim, Deryck, Garfield – 1967-97)