This week should have seen five matches for Ireland Women against their Scottish counterparts in Spain, but in a last minute u-turn citing Covid concerns, Scotland pulled out of the tour.

For two sides who hadn’t played an international for 14 months, it’s another hammer blow. It’s going to be hard in these dark, dank November days for the players not to be thinking of what might have been.

It would also appear to be the end of any hopes of a series between Ireland and Scotland men. They were due to play either in UAE or South Africa, but given the events of last week, that’s got to be dead in the water.

How to repair the damage done to the relationship between the two countries won’t be an easy fix. Once trust is gone, it’s going to take something extraordinary to get it back. I had a few opening partners, one of which I developed an almost telepathic understanding when running. We rarely called, just a nod or a quick glance. With another though it was the opposite. Disaster after disaster. It nearly had to be two before we would trust to go for one.

I’d imagine the howls of anguish from Cricket Ireland headquarters when the phone call came from Edinburgh. All those wasted hours planning, all the meetings, hotels, flights, practice sessions – all for nothing.

I don’t know the ins and outs of why Scotland left it so late in the day, but I do know if I were Ireland, I wouldn’t be getting back into bed with them – unless they put their money where their mouth was and put up a non-refundable deposit first.

North West proposals

The North West clubs voted almost unanimously on Friday for their new proposals – 95% opting for 40 over Premier matches, with all senior clubs split across two groups meaning no promotion/relegation. There were also proposals regarding youth and women’s cricket, which the Union will hope will arrest declining numbers, retaining those that do play.

From the outside it seems that the clubs are putting themselves and the union first, hoping to reverse the damage done by an eight-team Premier League, which sought to make the league more competitive, and drive up players standards.

It may have made the top flight more cut throat with less dead rubber games, but it did untold harm to many clubs and relationships between North West sides. There’s no doubt that it was also a major contributing factor to the demise of amongst others Creevedonnell and Drummond, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Union Chairman Brian Dougherty was so passionate and ebullient when the proposals passed.

Will these proposals be a silver bullet? Realistically, no, but the Union is at least trying something, rather than letting the game die further. The warning signs were there with club numbers at an all-time low, the women’s season finishing with three sides, many clubs not fielding youth teams, and standards woefully low.

I’m not sure if the reduction to 40 overs will go down well with Cricket Ireland, but I suppose the fact that it will only really affect Andy McBrine who is now the sole Irish regular left in the North West league means it will have a negligible effect.

‘B Doc’ mentioned the need for more investment in the game from various bodies. I wish he and Peter McCartney would publish how much grant aid and other income the region received. He has said that the North West income was comparable to the 250,000 published by the NCU last month. I’m confused though as there appears to be something of a mixed message with on one hand bemoaning lack of investment from statutory agencies, and on the other saying the North West are comparable to the NCU. Grant figures should be a matter of public record and in the interests of transparency, published.

We all know that sponsorship income for the North West has been low, especially in terms of hard cash rather than barter deals. There’s no doubt that it’s a tough task bringing commercial revenue into the region, and likely to be the same for the foreseeable future. Let us hope that the grants continue to be able and the union gets its fair share of them. The last thing we need right now is a period of austerity which would put real pressure on finances.

The rumours persist that Belfast is set to gain a second hub, while a fourth interpro side will be Dublin based rather than in Munster. If these come to pass, the North West and Munster will face a real challenge to remain relevant, rather than becoming outposts on the periphery of the game.

We certainly are living in interesting times. The Union’s clubs have taken a major step in recognising that there is a real problem and are to be applauded for that. Are these proposals going to remedy these problems? Time will tell.

Duckworth Lewis and umpires

We have recently started a series looking at Irish umpires from across the island and while gathering some photos to use with those to be featured was reminded when seeing one of them as to his horror at the introduction of Duckworth Lewis into the Irish Senior Cup.

In those days, there were no computer programmes, and the calculations had to be done manually with teamwork between the scorers and the officials.

The official (who I won’t name) was standing with his colleague and came into the scorebox between innings to check the first innings total. The scorers agreed and all was sweetness and light when one of the scorers, aware of the gathering gloom, reminded the umpires of the fact that Duckworth Lewis was to be used for the first time rather than straight run rate.

The umpires looked nervously at each other.

“I know nothing about Duckworth Lewis,” confessed one.
“You know more than me,” laughed the other…

Needless to say they both decided the game would be finished no matter what, and it was despite incessant rain, which saw their long coats absolutely drenched by the time the winning runs were scored.

Stevie Lou Nicholls aka Harlean Carpenter

I can’t let this column finish without paying condolences to the family and friends of Stevie Lou Nicholls aka Harlean Carpenter.

A long time supporter of Irish cricket and this website, Harlean was to my knowledge our first and I think only transgender fan.

Harlean loved the forum especially, often giving thoughts and well wishes to various players, fans and administrators.

Despite falling seriously ill this past year with cancer, Harlean kept in touch with the goings on of the Irish cricket scene until becoming too ill to follow.

May her gentle soul Rest In Peace.