In 2012 Cricket Ireland’s Chief Executive Warren Deutrom set forth the ambition for the national cricket team, who may represent both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to become a full Test nation by the year 2020. At the time Deutrom’s long-term vision formed the crescendo in a series of major announcements involving cricket in Ireland as a whole. This included a strategic plan aimed at the lead up to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament in which Ireland currently stand just a point away from qualifying for the quarter-finals following a sequence of promising performances.
Ireland’s convincing 4 wicket victory over full Test nation and two-time world champion West Indies in the opening fixture led former Windies legend Michael Holding to declare his support for Ireland to be granted full Test status by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Holding accentuated the amount of flourishing talent the Associate member nation produces. Importantly, in addition to the current World Cup squad who are surpassing expectations, he made reference to exported Irish cricketers who leave in search of international Test cricket such as the current England One Day International Captain Eoin Morgan.
Since the opening match, aside from being deprived from advancing due to the teams of India and South Africa who together might be considered favourites for the Cricket World Cup, Ireland have generated further encouragement with triumphs over the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe; another Test-playing nation. The Irish team are positioned fourth in Pool B and require a single point from their last remaining match versus Pakistan to guarantee qualification into the knockout rounds. An admirable achievement may be to move Ireland nearer to gaining Test status, especially when considering the relatively fresh impact and advancements the sport has made on the isle.
In 2007, the Irish team, having consisted entirely of amateur cricketers, qualified for their first ever Cricket World Cup reaching the quarter-finals after a memorable victory over Pakistan. On this new platform, the sport has journeyed on an upward trajectory in Ireland. According to the ICC Development Programme Census Results, between 2006 and 2013 the total amount of cricket players in Ireland almost quadrupled from 12,202 to 43,838. In the same amount of time Cricket Ireland’s annual commercial revenue has climbed from €104,000 to €1.8 million. Furthermore, today 24 players have professional contracts in the national team as they continue to advance towards Test-cricket status, a promotion which may serve to boost Test cricket in general as well as reward Ireland’s model of progression.
During the run-up to this Cricket World Cup, former Australian fast bowler and current Yorkshire head coach Jason Gillespie emphasised the potential gains which may arise should the ICC grant Ireland full Test status in the future. Gillespie believes that the addition of Ireland has the potential to be a promising story for the sport and may further enhance it further across the world. Furthermore Gillespie aims to back Ireland to become a consistently competitive team in a relatively short space of time.
By delaying a decision in the past, the ICC may have provided Cricket Ireland with the opportunity for the sport to naturally develop and as a result yield healthy results both on and off the field. Ireland’s progress aims to deliver a promising future for the sport and provides a successful model for other Associate nations such as Scotland to follow.
How might providing Ireland with full Test status enhance the sport as a whole and possibly encourage other nations to follow suit?