Greg Thompson seems determined to keep breaking records. The Waringstown skipper remains the youngest player to have been capped by Ireland and this week he hopes to resume his international career – for a third time!
On his selection for next week’s Twenty20 internationals against Zimbabwe, starting at Stormont on Wednesday, chairman of selectors Andrew White said Thompson was “in the form of his life at the moment and we believe he has earned his opportunity in the T20I squad through hard work, consistency and the experience he brings to his game”.
Thompson hesitates when asked if he has ever played better but he admits he is enjoying his cricket and having a very good season with both club and province.
“I feel in good form and am getting to know my own game better and better. I enjoyed the T20 Festival (with Northern Knights) where we get three games of cricket in three days, so it’s about getting into a rhythm and staying in that rhythm,” says the 31-year-old.
“I know my shots now and I’m more experienced and know when to play them. You can catch up quite quickly if you get off to a slower start and I proved that in the Leinster Lightning innings (last month). I chewed up a couple of balls at the start and then kicked on (he finished 65 not out and scored his last 61 runs from 25 balls) and that’s key in T20 cricket, you have more time than you think.”
Thompson was identified as a T20 specialist in 2016 and brought back into the Ireland team for a game against Hong Kong at Bready and scored 44 off 32 balls, which was enough to get him on a couple of tours early in 2017.
“We had relative success at the Desert T20 and then we went onto Greater Noida against a very strong Afghanistan side. The team struggled and my opportunities were limited to the last couple of overs against Rashid Khan!”
He fared no better than anyone else on that tour but this time Thompson is excited to be joining a younger (better?) squad, many of whom tasted that winning feeling again in the first two one-day internationals against Zimbabwe last week. The third is today at Stormont (10.45am).
Lorcan Tucker got runs, Shane Getkate and Mark Adair runs and wickets and the amount of power-hitting in the team is now really exciting,” says Thompson and which he undoubtedly adds to.
“Hopefully I get playing and get to contribute but more importantly Ireland get some good results. and build on last week’s wins.”
If Thompson returns to the side this week, he will become Ireland’s longest serving player, having made his debut in 2004 but, as he recalled, if it wasn’t for his dad – Lisburn’s Challenge Cup winning captain Ian – he would have turned down the chance to play for Ireland.
I got a phone call from (head coach) Adi Birrell informing me I’d been selected for the MCC game at Limavady, But I was actually due to go to Hampshire for a trial so, initially, I thanked him and said I was unavailable!
“But my dad snatched the phone and said ‘there’s no doubt Greg is available and will be there’, so that was the naivety of a 16-year-old not knowing the protocol that country comes first and it didn’t matter there was a flight booked.”
Back then, Thompson’s talent was his leg spin bowling “and his first two innings were at No 11.
“It all came very quickly and I probably didn’t realise the relevance of it. In those days nearly all were three days games so I didn’t win a lot of caps because Ireland didn’t play that many games.”
He played 14 games across four years in that first spell “but then I probably suffered a drop in form, Regan West became available, plus Gary Kidd and then George Dockrell and soon my leg spinning days were done”.
It wasn’t all cricket for Thompson at that time, he was also enjoying a successful hockey career with the mighty Lisnagarvey with whom he won the Kirk Cup, Ulster Premier League and the Irish Hockey League.
Today, he has succeeded his wife, Stephanie, a former Ireland international, as coach of Pegasus but, if his third Irish cricket career takes off he may have to hand over the reins.
There’s a T20 World Cup qualifying tournament coming up in October – and Ireland may need an in-form Thompson.