Great Expectations

While searching the archives this week for a photo of an international between Ireland and Bangladesh at Limavady I was reminded of the story behind the live scoring of the game. This was the second match of a two-game series played on consecutive days at the end of August 2004, with the first game at Stormont on the Sunday won narrowly by Bangladesh in the last over.

Cricket Ireland (as the website was known then) covered the first match but we ran into difficulties as the commentary section had been hacked by a Bangladeshi living in the USA who would type in rude comments about certain players he didn’t like. So while we typed in something like “Great shot through the covers by X”, he would then overtype by saying “Useless player. He’s rubbish. Only in the team because his uncle is a selector.”

We were blissfully unaware because every entry we made would overwrite the previous one so it wasn’t until after the game when it was brought to our attention via the Bangladesh Tigers Fan Forum which was certainly vibrant.

We didn’t cover the second game live but instead I posted period score updates, together with a few photos and a report between innings. This was all done via a hardwired dial-up connection to the public telephone in the bar in the Limavady clubhouse.

The Limavady ground and clubhouse

The Bangladesh fans forum were desperate for any updates and got more and more demanding as the game progressed. In those days, I was as I still am I guess, mullti-tasking doing about four different things at the game. I was reporting for BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle, writing for the local papers and also taking photos while running up and down those steps at Limavady trying to keep the site updated.

When the site hadn’t been updated for 30 minutes, the Bangladesh fans grew ever more and more anxious for news as the game was evenly balanced. Ireland were around 100 for 3 chasing 231. Cricinfo weren’t covering the games as this was the year before Ireland gained ODI status after the ICC Trophy.

Mohammad Rafique receives the trophyMohammad Rafique receives the trophy

I’m still not sure how they managed it but they got hold of not only my home telephone number but also my work number. Now unfortunately my father was seriously ill, dying of cancer but it lifted his spirits to answer the phone and talk to people. My mother too loved to answer the phone and I can still hear her charging like a bull down the wooden hallway to make sure she got to the phone first. Well, they both got their wishes in spades as the calls started to come in from Bangladeshis all over the world. They also started pestering one of my work colleagues whose peaceful Bank Holiday Monday was ruined with the incessant calls. “This is his place of work, not a sports desk” he bellowed. Thankfully the calls eventually stopped when I posted the final scorecard – Bangladesh won comfortably in the end.

I’d done something similar when back in the early 80s Alex Higgins was playing Steve Davis in the UK final. The game wasn’t on live with highlights being shown late on the BBC but we were desperate to know the score. The brother’s mother-in-law was the only one we knew who had a Ceefax service on their tv, but she went to bed at 10pm with the score level at 15-15 or whatever it was. I then had the idea of telephoning the operator/Directory enquiries and sure enough one of the telephonists knew somebody in the Preston office, got in touch and word came back Higgins had won the deciding frame.

Of course technology has moved on in subsequent years and with it people’s expectations. Supporters now want their information instantaneously and will go with the outlet that is even seconds ahead of the other. That’s a difficult beast to satisfy, especially for a website with scant resources. We are all guilty of it – I find myself moaning when Liverpool win, the BBC haven’t an extensive report on it within minutes of the final whistle. If they lose, then that’s a different story. People simply don’t have patience any longer and that’s not an easy world to operate in. But we do our best…

Y Viva Espana

Last week saw the announcement of a five-match series between Ireland and Scotland Women which is due to take place next month in La Manga. If it goes ahead then it will be the first competitive matches for 14 months for both since they failed to qualify for the T20 World Cup.

That’s a long, long time to be without games and they are to be commended for their perseverance. It can’t be easy training and training with no sign of games on the horizon.

Whether the games will actually take place is still in the balance though. At the time of writing Spain are toughening up restrictions as the second wave of the pandemic seems to be taking a serious hold. If a quarantine requirement is placed on visitors from the UK and Ireland then it will be the death knell for the series. Let us hope it doesn’t come to that.

Development in Connacht

I neglected to mention Connacht Cricket in my recent column highlighting development work ongoing in the various regions. While their website hasn’t been updated in nearly ten years, I’m assured there is cricket going on in the West of the country.

They do have a Facebook page which gets updated occasionally, and while there was no league cricket in the area in 2020 due to Covid, they did have a six team league in 2019 and two if their teams were due to participate in the 2020 Irish National Cup.

A quick google search showed that there was a visit by Cricket Ireland in December 2018 when there was a Cage Cricket demonstration by the Mayo Sports Partnership. There was talk of significant funding for a project but I’m not sure that went ahead in 2019.

The six teams who played in 2019 were Galway, Sligo, Cavan, Ballyhaunis, Ballyhaunis Lions and Ballaghaderreen. There is also talk of two more joining in 2021 – Athlone and Clare. Let us hope this comes to fruition.

Points mean Prizes

There’s talk that a proposal from the NW hierarchy will be put to clubs next month to try and stem the flow of players moving clubs.

While no details have been formally released, it’s my understanding that each club will be given a total of 15 points from which to field a senior side.

If they wish to have an overseas player he will cost three points, while if a player joins them from another club he too will cost three points.

That means they will exceed the permitted allowance if they have two new players plus an overseas player.

It’s an attempt by the Union to encourage clubs to develop their own talent and discourage ‘poaching’ by other clubs.

While certainly noble in principle, it will do little to alleviate the talent drain to other unions, and severely hamper players who want to move for genuine reasons rather than a brown envelope.

I’ll reserve judgement until I see the proposals in full, but on first hearing it appears that they are unlikely to get the support required for implementation.

As always, there are also plans for league restructuring and we will examine those in more detail once they are released.