Rankin deserves Test chance
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
THE first time I saw Boyd Rankin was in the 2000 Ulster Bank Schools Cup Final, playing for Strabane Grammar against Wallace High at the old North of Ireland ground at Ormeau. It was impossible to predict he would be on the plane as one of the five best bowlers in England just 13 years later because he didn't get a bowl in the game!
Rankin was primarily a batsman in that team, more than justifying his place by top scoring with 47 in the semi final against Ballymena Academy.
Three years later, though, Rankin was batting at No 11 and opening the bowling for Ireland, at Eton College, against the Free Foresters. Four overs, no wicket for 11 runs was his underwhelming opening figures at international level, but then a certain Eoin Morgan made his debut for Ireland in the same game and was out for a duck so first impressions are not always right.
Rankin was 22 before he played his third international for Ireland, a solitary game in the 2006 European Championships against Italy in Glasgow, but two wickets in the game were enough to persuade then National Coach Adi Birrell to take the, now, Derbyshire pace bowler to the inaugural World Cricket League the following winter in Kenya.
Again he played just one match (0-25 against Bermuda) in a tournament when Ireland lost four of their five games, but by now his genuine pace from his 6ft 8ins frame was starting to trouble the best batsmen. When Ireland went to their first World Cup finals the following month, Rankin did not miss a match and among his 12 wickets were Michael Vaughan, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs and Stephen Fleming. He never looked back.
Boyd admits now that it was that tournament which convinced him he could make it to the top and although he continued to play all the major tournaments for Ireland, including the World Twenty20s in 2009, 2010 and 2012, plus the World Cup in 2011 when he added Hashim Amla to his list of high-profile victims, he was already dreaming of making the big time and playing Test cricket.
Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan before him had taken the same decision and, until Ireland can offer Test match cricket there will remain the possibility of others following Rankin down the England road. If they make it to the top, as Morgan has done and Boyd surely will, then no-one can deny them the opportunity.
Certainly judging by the number of tweets yesterday, led by current Ireland coach Phil Simmons, congratulating Rankin on his call-up for the tour everyone wants to be a part of, there were only best wishes for the Big Man to get that first Test cap. And so say all of us.