Why Ireland can't play Test Cricket: Cricket Ireland response
Warren Deutrom, Chief Executive, Cricket Ireland
I have read Michael Taylor’s articles with great interest, and believe he has undertaken a significant degree of research and emerged with some, perhaps, very telling conclusions.
I do not wish to engage in a refutation of all of the arguments in detail, mostly because much of what Mr Taylor says is manifestly unarguable in an empirical sense. That said, in the same way as market research can always support your argument if you ask enough questions to support your case, selective statistics can appear similarly compelling – however, I do not believe that they represent the full picture.
To employ the same argument on the subject of the likelihood of Jersey (senior men global ranking 30th) beating the U15s of any other Test Nation, one might equally ask about the likelihood of Nepal U19s (ranking 31st) beating South Africa U19s (3rd) in two consecutive ICC U19 World Cups? It also appears slightly unfair to pick on our Ireland U15s to purport an argument of junior failure, when Irish teams won the other five (out of six) European events this year.
For every statistic addressing batting averages or the influence of overseas players, I would point to one which demonstrates that our U19 team has just won a global qualifier, or that we are unbeaten in international four-day cricket since 2004, or that we have been ranked above a Test member for most of the last 2_ years, or that we have qualified for the 2nd stage of consecutive global events in spite of our limited resources, or that we have grown to 16 full-time/part-time staff, or that England is playing in Ireland again in 2011 and 2013, not to mention Australia next year.
Mr Taylor is quite right to point out current weaknesses in our sport that we need to address to take our place at the top table, of which poor coverage by the electronic media in particular is prominent, not to mention our own structures, which are still developing. And make no mistake, we are very much a work in progress, but we are prepared to adopt best practice whether possible and affordable, such as player contracts, or full-time strength and conditioning, or recruiting a full-time head of cricket operations, or a reform of our governance structures.
I have not perhaps been around long enough to experience the ‘highly fractious relationships’ between journalists and cricket administrators or the incident you refer to back in 2007, but I am pleased to report I have seen nothing but courtesy and respect between both parties, while I believe that Cricket Ireland has always been as open and accessible as possible, to which I hope your colleagues would attest.
With regards to our media facilities, again you are correct to point out that we do not have permanent facilities to rival those of the Test countries, but that is the situation now, and will change into the future once we can demonstrate to funding bodies that we have sufficient international cricket to justify significant capital spend on such projects. As for the media experience at our matches, Paul Weaver from the Guardian wrote to us after the Ireland v England match as follows: ‘I really felt everything was first class, particularly in view of the difficult conditions, and I think my colleagues felt the same.’ Forgive me if this sounds selective, but it appears germane to the point being made.
With regards to sports funding, I would like to point out a factual inaccuracy in that we are actually very well supported by the Governments north and south through their respective Sports Councils. In 2009, we received €427,500 from the Irish Sports Council towards our core activities, while we have become the very first non-Olympic team sport to receive high performance funding from the Irish Government. In 2008, we achieved the biggest single rise in funding of any sport. From Sport Northern Ireland, we shall receive more than £650,000 over the course of the next four years – the fifth highest funded sport in Northern Ireland. This is not the picture of an unsupportive public purse – quite the contrary.
With regards to self-generated funding, we have enjoyed a 500% increase in commercial revenue since 2006, through long-term agreements with team sponsor RSA, with team kit manufacturer Kukri, and through our arrangements with ECB. This is all part of the picture to show that we are able to stand on our own two feet, a point quite rightly emphasised as important in Mr Taylor’s article.
Your readers may well be aware that Cricket Ireland commissioned a report on our domestic cricket structures which has just been completed and provided to the provincial unions for consideration. Don’t forget that these same people contributed towards a brave decision at the end of 2007 by abandoning the amateur structures of the old Irish Cricket Union, and embracing the professional business-focused model of the new Cricket Ireland. Of course, there are no guarantees that all of the report’s findings will be desirable or even feasible, but where you might see ‘parochial apathy’ and ‘reasons for pessimism to abound’, I prefer to see possibility and potential.
At the global level, the ICC has pledged something in the region of $300 million to the development programme between 2009 and 2015, with the express intention of giving countries the best opportunity to develop and knock on their own door – ICC wants Ireland, and other High Performance countries to succeed, and realise that it is not an instantaneous process to turn the sport in a country from minor to major. That said, while cricket does not dominate headlines, there have been more than 2,500 stories about the national teams or Cricket Ireland in the domestic and international press since the beginning of 2009, while our website traffic has already topped 5 million page views this year. The more opportunity we have for marquee matches, home and abroad, against the Test Nations the more our profile will grow.
In my personal capacity, I am fortunate to be one of three representatives of Associate Cricket’s interests on the ICC Chief Executives Committee. Reading the runes, I believe it can no longer be ruled out that the next country to be elevated to Full Member status may not have to play Test Cricket, at least initially. Furthermore, traditionally, countries submitting their application usually are subject to a 3-5 year period of being phased into full membership in order to comply with the rigorous criteria. So, you see, the question is not whether we are ready now, but whether we are ever likely to be ready, which I believe we shall.
In many ways, my job is to use the on-field success of Irish Cricket as a means to convey the impression of a sport that has the potential to be major, not worry about whether or not an application for the big time will fail because we are not there right now. The question is, with a history of cricket on this island as old as most full members, with 20,000 active participants in the sport, with a playing record as impressive as other countries recently elevated to that tier (in spite of narrower resource), with government/sponsor backing, and sheer self-belief, do we have the potential to succeed?
We have achieved a huge amount in just the last two years since the World Cup, and our particular Rome will take more than just one day to be built. Perhaps we are approaching the same argument from different angles, except where you see the glass half-empty, I see it half-full?
Michael, as our dear departed colleague John Wright was wont to say, keep the faith.