Modest Jones the right man for the job
Robin Walsh (Sunday Life)
They donít come much more modest than Nigel Jones.
As we relaxed of an evening in a Dublin hotel I inquired how the Civil Service North side he captains has fared in the Ulster Cup earlier in the day.
Won by 98 runs, he told me, before giving me a rundown of the other results, emphasising it was 5-3 in favour of NCU clubs over the North-West.
I had to wait until the next morningís paper to learn he had scored 148.
The same unassuming attitude was never more evident than during Irelandís heroics in the ICC World Cup in India last year. He carried the drinks in all six matches; never a word of complaint, rather a man who encouraged team spirit with the best of them.
Yet both on and off the field the 30 year-old New Zealander has much to be immodest about. He has notched up 29 appearances for Ireland and so far this season his club form with both bat and deceptive medium pace has been outstanding.
That towering 148 against Fox Lodge was followed by 4-29; in the Bob Kerr Irish Cup came another century in a runaway win over Phoenix; in the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup a return of 5-15 against Derriaghy; 4-15 and 80 not out in two league wins out of three and a half century in the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup.
And off the field there is much to crow about as Cricket Irelandís Development Officer in the NCU area. But he doesnít.
Instead, unobtrusively behind the scenes he goes about a huge programme which bodes well for the future of the game here.
Itís just six months since Jones left his job as a hotel business and conference manager to make cricket his full time occupation.
And already his work within clubs and schools; regional development and inter-Provincial squads; coachesí advancement and girlsí/womenís cricket is earning high praise from his demanding bosses.
The road from New Zealand took Jones to club cricket in Scotland where he met his Lisburn-born wife Rosalyn,then to Cooke Collegians and now to Stormont, not only headquarters of Civil Service North but the office base of Cricket Ireland north of the border.
ďThe whole area of development is very wide-ranging and Iíve learned a lot over the past six monthsĒ, says Jones.
ďI hope Iím starting to get the ship in shape and one of the really encouraging things is that we have a really good group of coaches concentrating on the various age levels. Funding, of course, is key and Iíve no doubt if this can be secured to a greater extent, the future will be very bright.Ē
The Irish squad to play Australia on June 23 at Stormont will be announced tomorrow. It will be touch and go whether Jones makes the squad of 13 and, such is the fierce competition, pretty certain that he wonít make the final eleven.
But either way heíll still be on the right side of the boundary line on his home ground.
If he isnít selected, he will conduct proceedings between innings in a Kwik Cricket Challenge when pupils from two North West primary schools will show their skills before an expected capacity crowd nudging 5,000.
And either way, Ireland will have no more enthusiastic supporter than the modest New Zealander.