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Irish cricket, the future?

August 31, 2011

With yesterday’s announcement from Cricket Ireland that Irish cricketer Trent Johnston will be undergoing surgery on his knee at the end of the current season, I feel the need to look at the future of Irish international cricket. With players retiring, getting injured, choosing rugby over cricket, and possibly moving to England, Irish cricket may be facing a shortfall of international players over the coming years.

Last weeks ODI against England was played without Trent Johnston as his knee was causing him problems in the build up to the match.  His absence meant that Ireland had to rely more on Boyd Rankin, John Mooney & Nigel Jones. However Jones & Mooney both bowl at a slower pace than Johnston. On a pitch that was mainly suited to fast bowlers Johnston’s absence was notably missed. Whilst Jones was Ireland’s most economical bowler, Ireland also needed to take more wickets and this is where Johnston was missed. In his 55 matches for Ireland Trent has taken 55 wickets. In comparison Jones has taken 10 wickets from 14 matches, and Mooney has taken 29 wickets from 39 matches. These figures here clearly show that Johnston is a proven wicket taker for Ireland. Unfortunately though, Trent is now 37 years old, almost twice the age of his Irish team-mate George Dockrell. He is set to retire after the Twenty 20 world cup next year, or if Ireland fail to qualify, he will retire after the qualifying tournament. No matter how good a talent he is, his participation in Irish cricket is slowly coming to an end, and it will be one of the biggest losses to Irish cricket.

Another threat to the future of Irish cricket is the fact that England and the ECB are approaching Irish players and inviting them to play for England. In the past few years most notably Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan have made the move to play for England in hopes of playing cricket at the highest level. Some will make it, as Eoin Morgan has done. However others will not, and may end up playing for Ireland again as seen in the case of Ed Joyce. In recent weeks we have seen Irish paceman Boyd Rankin playing for the England Lions. Whilst playing for the England Lions does not mean that Rankin cannot play for Ireland any more, unless he gets a call up to the England first XI, it does show that the ECB are taking a serious interest in the Derryman. Rankin has since come out confirming his England ambition by saying; “The ultimate goal is to play Test cricket and I don’t know if the one-day team is the route to Test team. It won’t happen for a while anyway but it’s just a matter of trying to get my foot into the Lions (door) and do well with them and get on the winter programme.” As mentioned earlier Ireland will soon be losing the talent of Trent Johnston. If we lose Rankin as well Ireland will be left with a serious shortfall of fast bowlers.

Another fear that I have when I see Boyd Rankin potentially moving to England is that he may not be the only Irish cricketer to cross the channel in the coming years. Once one player goes he may just re-open the door to England and other players may follow in his lead. An Irish player that the ECB have their eye on is 19 year old, left arm spinner George Dockrell. With a wealth of international experience behind him at such a young age, and a serious amount of talent, Dockrell is certainly a cricketer to watch for the future. With Graeme Swann already 32 a young spinner like Dockrell will surely appeal to England. In the recent under 19 world cup qualifying tournament Dockrell took charge and captained the Ireland under 19’s to qualify for next years world cup. During this tournament Dockrell not only showed his bowling, and captaining skills, but also showed his batting potential. As a player who is largely known as just a bowler, he certainly surprised everyone with his batting, in particular in the match against Namibia when Dockrell took 3 wickets and finished batting at 82 not out. George already has a county contract with English county Somerset. If he stays living in Somerset for a coupe more years he will soon become eligible for English selection. Losing a player like Dockrell would be a  huge blow to Irish cricket and would certainly impact upon the future of the sport.

For a couple different reasons Irish cricket looks as if it may lose several players over the coming years. With players going across to England to try and further their career Ireland will be losing several talents and therefore it will be more difficult for Ireland to win matches and prosper as a cricketing nation. It is also very discouraging for fans of Irish cricket to see their cricketing heroes suddenly up ship and move to England. The future of Irish cricket is certainly in danger unless better rules are implemented to stop players leaving their home country.

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