Ireland's hopes of qualification for the World Cup have been dealt a severe blow with the news that influential all-rounder Kim Garth  has accepted a two-year professional deal with Cricket Victoria.

The Pembroke all-rounder has won 114 caps since her debut as a 14 year-old back in 2010.

Since then she has become one of the most successful players in the squad, taking 93 wickets to sit at third on the all-time list behind Isobel Joyce and Ciara Metcalfe, while her aggregate of 1679 runs places her fourth on the run charts.

She is a two-time winner of the Big Bash and she was named joint-winner at Cricket Victoria’s 2019-20 Premier Awards.

“While I have accepted the offer, it was not an easy decision to make," said Garth. "To leave family, friends and the whole Irish cricket community was a very difficult decision and one I did not take lightly.

"However, my ambition has always been to be a full-time professional cricketer and to play at the highest level. A chance like this doesn’t present itself too often, so I am keen to seize this opportunity.

“I will miss being part of the Irish squad, and indeed all the staff I have worked with at Cricket Ireland - I am very grateful and conscious of the opportunities afforded to me by Cricket Ireland over the years. But I have also learned a lot living and playing cricket in Australia and hope that, at some future time, I can bring this experience home and give back in some way.”

(Kim Garth with Irish captain Laura Delany)

Head Coach Ed Joyce acknowledged the departure of his star all-rounder was a big loss to the squad.

“This is obviously a blow, there is no way around that," said Joyce. "To lose one of your leading players anytime is a challenge, but I can understand Kim’s decision-making and she has been quite open with her ambitions.

“Ambition is a good thing, though – I want our players to be ambitious for Ireland and for their careers. However, the reality is that it will take a few years for us to be in a position to offer our women cricketers full-time opportunities. We’re on that road, like we did with the men’s contracts, but I am optimistic we will get there with patience and commitment.

“There is now a golden opportunity for those next generation of players to step forward and play a significant role in the evolution of the squad, and we have a talented cohort of players coming through the system that will be eager to advance their cricket careers.

“In the meantime, we are back in training and focussing on our plans for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier. It has been a great relief to us all to get back into the nets and I have enjoyed re-connecting with the team in person, rather than via a screen.”

(Abbi Aitken is bowled by Kim Garth)

Ireland had hoped Garth would be available for the World Cup Qualifiers next month, but with the tournament being postponed, that was no longer an option as Richard Holdsworth explained.

“While she will step away from Ireland duty, this does not necessarily close the door on her Irish career, and we hope that we may see her in Irish colours once more at some stage in the future.

“The contract agreement has been in the pipeline for a little while now, and we had hoped that Kim would have played for us at the World Cup Qualifier before starting with Cricket Victoria. With the postponement of that tournament, the timing will no longer allow this.”

(Runs for Kim Garth)

Cricket Ireland will be providing an update on the contracts for Ireland Women shortly, while ICC are expected to provide details of the rescheduled World Cup Qualifier at their meeting next month.