Ireland hope to cause Cricket World Cup shock

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As the country shivers in the depths of winter, with snow falling, icy nights and bitter winds, it seems bizarre to think that in two months time the domestic cricket season will be bowling its first balls in anger.

Taking part in these opening games will be a number of cricketers who will be turning out for Ireland in the 2015 World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand in February and March.

This four-yearly event allows Ireland to test themselves on a worldwide Cricketing stage alongside the established elite. Over previous World Cups, Ireland have equipped themselves more than admirably over their previous two appearances in the tournament.

In 2007 on their debut appearance, Ireland progressed through to the Super Eight stages, no thanks to a sensational victory over Pakistan in the group stages on St. Patrick’s Day.

Despite finishing bottom of the Super Eight table, their performances had raised awareness of Irish Cricket and the standard of the players who participated, earning a number of them contracts with County Cricket teams in England.

In the 2011 World Cup, Ireland were placed in a much larger group and found it a tougher challenge when they were up against the likes of South Africa and India. This time round, Ireland didn’t manage to make it out of the group stages, but they did still make an impact before leaving the tournament.

They defeated the Netherlands (as did all of the group) but there was another sensational victory for Ireland when they defeated England by three wickets, when Kevin O’Brien made 100 off just 50 balls, which saw the Dubliner set a new World Cup record for the quickest century scored in the World Cup.

Fast forward four years and Ireland are preparing for their third World Cup and are once again in a difficult group. Phil Simmons’ men will face West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and United Arab Emirates as they look to once again send shock waves through the sport.

They were handed a fantastic boost ahead of the tournament, with the announcement that the qualifying process for the Cricket World Cup is due to change, which sees Ireland and Afghanistan joining the 10 Test-playing teams in a ranking-based system of qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales.

The top eight sides in the one-day international rankings on 30 September 2017 will automatically qualify. The bottom four in that table will then play in a 10-team World Cup Qualifier in 2018, which will determine the final two teams for the tournament.

This change which was ratified by the International Cricket Council (ICC) recently will mean that Ireland, currently ranked 12th in the one day rankings, will have now have the opportunity to qualify directly for the World Cup, rather than the long-winded way they’ve qualified for the 2007, 2011 and 2015 events.

“Both Afghanistan and Ireland have excelled on and off the field in recent years, and this decision is a critical step forward to the ICC’s aim of having more competitive teams in international cricket,” said ICC chief executive David Richardson.

“The decision also provides even greater context to one-day international cricket, and provides a fully meritocratic pathway into Cricket World Cup and Champions Trophy events. It also compliments the recent decision by the ICC board to introduce opportunities for associate and affiliate members to play Test cricket through the ICC.”

Cricket Ireland CEO, Warren Deutrom, said: “We were always confident that a robust qualification pathway would be put in place for the 2019 World Cup, and it is noteworthy that, for the first time, at least two Full Members will have to pre-qualify. It is also important in terms of delivering genuine context to the 50-over game that every ODI will now count in some way towards qualification for the World Cup.

“Another sea change in the announcement is the creation of a system of promotion and relegation in ODI cricket – similar to what is now in place for Test cricket – with Ireland and Afghanistan confirmed in the top division along with the Full Members. We believe this sends a strong signal to the other Full Members to play us to ensure credibility and fairness for this new ODI rankings system.”

Whilst Ireland are making progress in the one-day game, their cause to become a Test Cricket playing nation has been championed by former Australian fast bowler, Jason Gillespie, who feels that by being awarded Test status, it’ll provide a much needed boost to the five-day format of the game.

Gillespie, now Head Coach at Yorkshire, said: “One fantastic way to give Test cricket a lift straight away would be to give Ireland Test status. It is something that should happen sooner rather than later from the ICC.

“Let’s face it, outside of Australia and England and, to a lesser extent, South Africa, people don’t turn up to watch Test cricket. That’s just the way it is, and it’s sad. Imagine if Ireland were given Test status. That would be huge news in world cricket, and it would be a massive positive story for the world game.

“The ICC and all the national boards talk a lot about the importance of protecting the integrity of Test cricket.

If it is that important, then we should look to improve it, and in my view including Ireland would improve it.

“Ireland are ticking all the boxes. They’ve punched well above their weight in limited-overs tournaments.

Think of the list of names who’ve plied their trade in English domestic cricket and who have even played for England. It would make a decent Test side.

“I don’t see why it couldn’t happen. Eoin Morgan is obviously with England full-time now but, apart from him, you’ve got Ed Joyce (Sussex), William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin (both Warwickshire), George Dockrell (Somerset), Peter Chase (Durham).”

Surrey captain Gary Wilson, Middlesex opener Paul Stirling and brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien are also among the Irish contingent to make their way in the county game.

Financially too, the future for Irish Cricket has not looked brighter, even before taking the field in the World Cup.

Their coffers have been boosted after they signed a 10-year sponsorship deal worth seven-figures with a group of companies who are owned by Ireland’s richest man, Indian-born Pallonji Mistry. The deal is thought to be worth £2m and sees the Irish cricket academy being renamed to the Shapoorji Pallonji Cricket Ireland Academy.

Mistry has been ranked as the world’s 62nd richest man and accrued his fortune £10bn fortune through business interests in construction, hotels, motors, textiles and energy and has Irish citizenship due to his wife being Irish.

His support will underpin Ireland’s push towards their continued lobbying of the International Cricket Council to grant Ireland a Test nation status, to allow the sport to develop across all levels of the game – domestic, grassroots and on the international scene.

Ireland’s Cricket World Cup Pool B fixtures

West Indies
Monday, 16 February 2015
United Arab Emirates
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
South Africa
Tuesday, 3 March 2015
Zimbabwe
Saturday, 7 March 2015
India
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Pakistan
Sunday, 15 March 2015