It is my opinion that most cricketers in Ireland, and certainly the vast majority of the cricket-watching public, are not aware of the importance of ireland's current status in the world game. Some three or four years ago we received a visit, north and south, by world cricket supremo Dr Ali Bacher, the former South African captain and the boss of the ICC Development Committee. He was so impressed with what he saw on the field and administratively that he promised that Ireland would be one of the five or six countries to be fast tracked towards one day international status and possibly to Test status in the future. Other countries mentioned were Bangladesh, Kenya, Scotland and Holland.
Some people were inclined to take his words with a pinch of salt but, following the last ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur, in which Kenya and Bangladesh contested the Final, both countries were elevated to one day international status. Scotland beat Ireland in the third place play-off and took their place in the World Cup Finals last season in England and as the top seed for the next ICC Trophy in Toronto in July 2001.
We are the second seeds and, despite having the worst of the contests between our two countries in recent years, because of the post-World Cup retirement of half of Scotland's team we are now moving ahead of them and, in fact, have beaten them in our last two meetings. However, at the present time we are falling behind Holland in one or two respects. While we are still ahead in quality of grounds and administration, we are too static as regards our development programme. While our Under 19 squad did well in reaching the Finals of the Youth World Cup last winter, becoming beaten Plate semi-finalists, Holland are gaining kudos right under Dr Bacher's nose.
Emerson Trotman coaching the Dutch Under 19s
in Sri Lanka during the Youth World Cup
Their national coach, Emerson Trotman, a former West Indian batsman, takes eight Dutch players between the ages of 17 and 23 each January to Cape Town for two to three months. They rent a house, gather up four locals, and play two games a week in the local leagues as well as working out, practising and receiving high level coaching. As a result they are providing a couple of new players each year to the Dutch national squad.
This initiative has been greatly admired throughout the cricketing world and, in fact, Trotman has offered Ireland the opportunity to send three or four people to join the Dutchmen - at a cost of &£2000 per head to the ICU - instead of them recruiting local extras. In my book this would be money well spent and I know the ICU are actively looking into the idea.
So, as well as monitoring the results of the Irish team - which in the Emerging Nations Tournament in Zimbabwe suffered mixed fortunes and against Shropshire in the NatWest Trophy was disastrous - world cricket supremos are very concerned with under age results and organisation. However, what will, in the end, count most towards the advancement of Irish cricket is our performance in the ICC Trophy and hopefully our participation in the next World Cup Finals.