England squad an insult
Last time England played in Ireland, back in 2009, Paul Collingwood didn't exactly endear himself to the Irish fans, clearly not wanting to be there at all. This time, it seems like almost the whole team – and the coach – have followed his lead and decided not to even bother showing up.
Of England's thirteen man squad, only five played in the series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, and just one – Jonathan Trott – played in the famous World Cup match in Bangalore back in March. England have rested so many players, it's a wonder Boyd Rankin wasn't called up.
The ECB also seem to be rubbing salt in the wounds by naming former Irish international Eoin Morgan as captain. Incidentally, he is one of 13 Irish born players involved across the two squads, as opposed to eight English born players.
To fob off Ireland with this pseudo ODI team is an insult to what was until very recently the tenth ranked side in the world. Not only that, it's an insult to the England supporters who are no doubt hoping for “revenge”.
Continuing on a theme, it's also an insult to the thousands of fans showing up to the game, which sold out almost five months ago. They've forked out a not insignificant amount of money, with home support coming from all over Ireland and the travelling England supporters paying for flights across the Irish sea.
It's an insult to Sky Sports who have decided to broadcast an Ireland ODI outside the World Cup for the first time, and instead have found themselves showing a match involving England's second string.
England are playing the rest card of course, but even though this match is taking place just three days after the conclusion of a four test series, they still have almost a week off before the Twenty20 International against India, and another three days after that before the ODI series starts.
Of course it now puts England (and the ICC) in a no-lose situation, similar to when a Zimbabwe XI played in the last Intercontinental Cup. Should Ireland win (and they should), they've not beaten a proper England side. Should England win, it shows that Ireland can't even beat England's second string.
One is tempted to say that it's indicative of the way the Full members treat Associate and Affiliate members, but remember that since last year, Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan have sent full strength squads to Ireland, and Sri Lanka would have fielded a full strength side against Ireland in Scotland had the match not been rained off.
Australia also participated gamely in various promotional activities ahead of their ODI, coming across very well, though that was spoilt somewhat by Ricky Ponting's subsequent comments about Associate participation during the 2011 World Cup.
Only England see fit to send a virtual second XI, so it perhaps more indicative of how the ECB sees Irish cricket. A side fit for warm-up matches only (as the ECB apparently wanted the 2006 match to be) and as a resource to be tapped for players. Irish cricket deserves better.
This is a full ODI, with ranking points on offer, and England should be taking it as seriously as they take any ODI. Ireland certainly will be.