Back home again
Monday March 28, 2011
Our World Cup campaign has been over for a week now, and yet being at home and outside the bubble of the team, security, hotels, the media and cricket grounds still feels a bit strange. Having a bit of time to reflect I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, but watching the quarter finals over the last few days I think everyone in the squad and support staff has a pang of regret that we didn’t get home in the Bangladesh and West Indies games and have a shot at the knockout stages.
Looking back at our final game against the Netherlands it was certainly a must-win fixture for us for a couple of reasons. Firstly we had to show the Netherlands that we are the premier associate nation in world cricket. And secondly, we played such good competitive cricket all through the world cup that to end it all with a poor result against a side that we should beat nine times out of ten would have been a huge disappointment.
But in that game our fielding and bowling display was possibly our poorest of the tournament, not withstanding the four run-outs in four balls at the end of the Netherlands innings which kept us in the game, and also set yet another record in international cricket. We weren’t helped in the field by the unfortunate injury to George Dockrell, probably our stand out bowler during the tournament after just three overs of his spell. With the start of the summer’s cricket season almost upon us I hope he’s back fit and healthy to capitalise on the incredible reputation he has forged for himself over the last two months.
So we were set up for a run chase of over three hundred runs, which is always a difficult ask, regardless of how good the wicket or the opposition are. A good start is always imperative in a successful chase of this magnitude. Enter Paul Stirling and another record for the Irish cricket team! With his innings of 100 off 70 balls, he became the youngest ever centurion at a World Cup. Paul is an enormous talent and it was hugely enjoyable watching him smash the Netherlands bowling all around Eden Gardens. The only problem being that I was next in and had a severe case of pad-rash waiting for my turn to bat! We finished the game strongly with all the batsmen contributing to a solid run chase, and Niall O’Brien excelled with his unbeaten half century.
That night the Irish and Dutch embassies got together and arranged a celebration for both teams and supporters (plus half of Calcutta by the looks of the turnout). The new Irish Sports Minister, Leo Varadkar, was in attendance and it was a good thing that he was able to witness first hand how well we could perform and how well the Irish team was received by the International media and cricket mad locals! In the middle of the madness I happened to bump into a group of ladies from Bray (of all places), one of whom remarkably is married to my old Pres Bray headmaster, Gerry Duffy. Proving two things – 1) it is a small world after all and 2) us Irish get everywhere!
After a day of recovery following the ambassador’s reception (incidentally there were no Ferrero Rocher) we began the long trek back to Dublin, via Dubai and London Heathrow. When we returned RSA, our main sponsor, held a press conference at the airport Radisson hotel so we could greet the media in person and answer any outstanding questions they had.
That evening Krystle owner and cricket lover, Rangan Aruchelvan, held a party for the team and our supporters in his establishment on Harcourt Street. It was great to be back amongst so many Irish cricket supporters, and hearing how much they enjoyed our campaign (mostly with a pint in hand at Dicey’s it would seem!).
So where does Irish cricket stand now?
In a way, despite our disappointment in not progressing to the quarter final stage of the competition, we achieved some of our main objectives as laid down in advance of the World Cup campaign.
The first of these was trying to convince the sceptical world cricket media and test-playing countries that we are actually a strong cricket team with great potential for growth, and therefore are deserved of further support and development from them and the ICC. An early indicator that we’ve achieved this goal is the addition of three more ODI’s scheduled against Sri Lanka and Pakistan this summer (in addition to the existing fixture v’s England).
The second objective was to showcase the game to people at home in Ireland. Front page and back page news coverage should mean that most people are now at least aware that Ireland has a cricket team, and that we’re not half bad!
But we still have a long way to go. This World Cup campaign should at least continue the steady growth in the game that we’ve witnessed over the last few years. So our job is to maintain the high standards we’ve set for ourselves in all the fixtures this summer and beyond, and keep pushing the full members and ICC for greater exposure on the world stage.
For this we need to keep developing young players and bringing through the next O’Brien’s, Stirling’s and Dockrell’s. From what I’ve seen and heard there is another wave of Irish talent just about to break – exciting times ahead.