Strengthened by the absence

It’s been a truly bizarre year in every respect, but it’s ironic that the financial position of Cricket Ireland has strengthened considerably by not playing cricket. Hosting matches costs the governing body a considerable amount of revenue, rarely recouped by ticket sales.

Therefore while it’s been disastrous from a cricketing perspective having home matches against Bangladesh and New Zealand cancelled in 2020, it has given them a financial windfall in that costs have been dramatically slashed.

There was further good news for their coffers this week with an injection of almost 1.5million euros from Sport Ireland, 200k of which is earmarked for clubs in the South. Northern clubs aren’t eligible but Sports NI have their own hardship fund.

Cricket Ireland have also benefitted from both the furlough and covid-subsidy schemes to help pay some staff wages, meaning that they have mostly gone into hibernation and managed to avoid the job cuts that we have seen from other cricketing bodies, most notably the ECB.

This has meant that Cricket Ireland are now probably in their soundest financial position for a few years, but there may be trouble ahead. As mentioned above the ECB have started major cuts, as their resources have been slashed by the covid pandemic, and also an eye-watering investment in The Hundred, which looks to have been money down the drain at this stage.

With all countries – except India – under severe financial pressure, the next round of funding allocations will be crucial. The squeaking wheel gets the oil and already we have seen most of the cricketing bosses start to speak up about their various plights and demanding more cash.

Will we see a more equitable share next time around?

The Big Three have shown in the past to really only care about number one, and I’d be very surprised if something similar doesn’t happen again. I have a mental image of the other CEO’s going around the table like Oliver Twist with their bowls asking for more. ‘You want more!’

Let us hope for a more equitable distribution but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Especially if the next two T20 World Cups don’t make as much as hoped for, and the broadcasters look to save some money in a much changed climate. Interesting times ahead.

Death of Cyril Vennard

There was sad news this week of the death of NCU umpire Cyril Vennard, and tributes poured in from across the region as colleagues and clubs acknowledged his value as an official and player.

He was involved in one of the most contentious decisions that I’ve come across in my time in cricket. There used to be a competition called the Barbados Sixes where the prize on offer was an all-expenses trip to Barbados for the winners – quite a tidy sum!

Limavady were on course to win the trophy but were denied when Cyril, standing at square leg, ruled that the peak of the wicket-keepers baseball cap was protruding in front of the stumps and called no-ball. There was uproar in the Limavady camp as their winter holiday disappeared. Every game since then, Billy Crown turned his trademark cap around the other way when coming up to the stumps for the spinners.

Talking of controversial decisions, I still chuckle at my good friend and colleague Lawrence Moore’s first match standing as an umpire at Donemana. He achieved something of a first as he gave out both Junior and James McBrine in the same over. It was unheard of, and to say the natives were restless would be an understatement.

Donemana duly lost and a welcoming committee led by Doris McBrine was lying in wait as he came off the field with Eric Cooke. “God, look at that, Eric. I don’t think I’m flavour of the month giving out James and Junior,” said Lawrence. “You think that’s bad. Wait until I tell them you’re a Catholic too!” laughed Eric.

The best laid plans of mice and men

Man plans and God Laughs.

The old proverb could well apply to the cricketing fixtures of Ireland this past few years. The amount of time, effort and money that has been wasted on games that haven’t come to fruition must be incredibly frustrating for all concerned.

From a journalistic perspective there’s nothing more annoying than writing previews for matches that are rained or called off the day before, so I can only imagine the angst caused by all these cancellations.

At the time of writing doubts have surfaced over the proposed T20 tournament in the UAE for the men next month. Originally envisaged as a quadrangular competition involving Bangladesh, it’s now down a three team event, but the schedule, which includes a necessary quarantine period isn’t to the liking of Ireland, who feel 21 days is too long and too costly. I expect there will be a bit of horse trading going on , but if money is really an issue, then it would make sense to play some games in January instead ahead of their games against Afghanistan which is one of their alternate proposals.

It does appear that the five-match series between Ireland and Scotland Women will indeed go ahead as proposed. The worsening covid situation in the UK and Spain, including the shutting of the hotel where the teams are staying had cast a cloud over the series. However, it appears that the hotel will be re-opening for the teams and officials.

The sides haven’t played any international cricket for 14 months, so they can be excused if they will be a bit rusty when they take the field in two weeks’ time….hopefully!