Double jobbing McCallan committed to the cause
Robin Walsh (Sunday Life)
Proof, if any was needed, that Kyle McCallan’s commitment to the game locally and nationally has not been diminished by his retirement from the international arena can be found in two new roles this season. It’s symptomatic of his devotion to the game that they are to be found at both ends of the spectrum.
Schools’ cricket may not be a headline grabber but it’s where the future lies. And McCallan is in the thick of it as he takes on responsibility for the smooth running of the Ulster Bank Schools Cup.
It’s a far cry from the international game which McCallan’s all round skills distinguished for 13 years years and to the tune of a record-breaking 226 appearances before he called it a day three years ago. Yet he has now become an integral part of the Cricket Ireland set-up in a new found role as a selector.
At the age of 36, McCallan, of course, has never been lost to the middle: last year he took over the captaincy of high-flying Waringstown and led the club to a NCU and Irish Cup double. And this season it’s been a case of so far, so good.
His two new roles come quite naturally.
As head of the PE Department at Grosvenor Grammar School he and his erstwhile Irish team-mate and current staffroom colleague, Andrew White, have, unsurprisingly, improved the stock of cricket at the Belfast school. The oversight of the province-wide 32-strong Schools Cup made him an obvious choice.
And so too McCallan’s place on the senior selection committee of Irish cricket, given his wealth of experience not only as a player but also as his country’s captain on 54 occasions.
He joins an impressive bunch who will help fashion the side with National Coach, Phil Simmons: former fellow internationals Alan Lewis from Dublin, Peter Gillespie from the North-West and Leinster administrator Brian MacNiece.
McCallan’s input will essentially be a Northern Cricket Union one and since, week in and week out, he plays against the top Premier League teams, it would be difficult to find a more appropriate selector.
He tells me: “I’m delighted to take on both roles and I see a connection between the two. I think at the highest level we must have a succession plan - first of all the identification of promising talent and then the nurturing of that talent.
“I will be playing against talent which has already blossomed, players who are knocking on the door of international honours. But my role within schools’ cricket will also help me keep abreast of the younger players who have our future in their hands.”
McCallan’s baptism as a selector will be to help name the side to play Australia in the big showcase game at Stormont on June 23.
Although Irish cricket has never been stronger it will still take some head-scratching.
Most of the side will be automatic choices - from the Porterfields and Stirlings to the O’Briens and Joyces, to the Johnstons and Dockrells.
But with pace bowler Boyd Rankin out with injury, a clutch of players will be vying for the remaining places. At the end of the day it could as many as five for two places: much to talk about.
The Australians have already announced their squad that will also play five ODIs against England - and a strong one it is.
Ricky Ponting has yielded the captaincy to Michael Clarke and the line-up is:
Michael Clarke (c), Shane Watson (vc), George Bailey, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, David Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
I expect the Ireland team to be selected after the North v South Interprovincial at The Mardyke in Cork on June 3.