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Do Ireland pass the Test?

Eoin Morgan has enjoyed a successful start to his England career
Eoin Morgan has enjoyed a successful start to his England career

By Alvin McCaig

The sight of Eoin Morgan piling up the runs for England brings mixed emotions for Irish cricket fans.

Pleased to see the Dubliner excel at the highest level but frustrated that he must forego his native land to fulfil his sporting ambitions.

The 23-year-old, already a world-class operator in limited overs cricket, made a solid start to his Test career as England thumped Bangladesh in the two recent Tests.

Ireland enjoy one-day and Twenty20 international status after their emergence as the leading Associate team in the past five years.

However, the talent drain will continue unless Ireland can secure Test status and to enter the five-day arena they must first become full members of the International Cricket Council.

This is the task facing Cricket Ireland and it is currently in the process of applying to join the 10-strong club of elite nations.

Its chief executive Warren Deutrom has criticised the ICC for not making clear what steps Ireland must take to achieve Test-playing status.

Deutrom believes a "glass ceiling" exists for Associate teams and he has labelled the Test nations as a "cosy club".

Ireland will continue to have its best players taken from it until the playing field is made level

Kyle McCallan

It is a view shared by former Ireland all-rounder Kyle McCallan, who retired last year after winning a record 226 caps.

"It galls me that Irishmen are good enough to win World Cups with England but Ireland is not a strong enough cricket nation to eat from the top table of the ICC," he said.

"We would be equally as good if we had the funding and the same supplementary services that the other Test playing countries have.

"We have the ability to be the next Test nation although people will say that's poppycock.

"Ireland will continue to have its best players taken from it until the playing field is made level.

"Cricket Ireland has that potential - there is enough talent in the country and enough people who are qualified for Ireland to allow it to play at the top level over a prolonged period of time."

McCallan cites the impressive display against England at the World Twenty20 last month as evidence that Ireland can compete against the best.

Kyle McCallan scored 3,616 runs and took 256 wickets for Ireland
Kyle McCallan scored 3,616 runs and took 256 wickets for Ireland

There is, however, the example of Bangladesh to bolster the argument that Ireland fail to merit Test status.

Bangladesh have won just three out of 68 Test matches, one against Zimbabwe and two against a severely weakened West Indies side, since becoming a full member of the ICC in 2000.

The increased funding that comes with Test status has failed to transform Bangladesh into a competitive team.

Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott believes Ireland's application for full membership will ultimately fail.

"The full member countries there already have to give their official blessing to this," said Boycott.

"I'm not sure they are going to vote for Ireland to come in because it would mean dividing the spoils between 11 and they are going to get less money.

"And usually turkeys don't vote for Christmas very easily - I don't think they are going to get in.

"I don't feel they should get automatic Test status or one-day international status, because it hasn't helped Bangladesh, has it?"

There is also the problem of getting five straight days without rain in Ireland and the sport is well down the pecking order behind football, GAA and rugby.

606: DEBATE
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Ireland's cricketing nadir came with a dismal showing at the ICC Trophy in 2001 and the subsequent resignation of coach Ken Rutherford.

Less than a decade later they are aspiring to gain promotion from the game's second division, illustrating the steep ascent they have made under coaches Adrian Birrell and Phil Simmons.

A professional ethos has been instilled in both the team and the sport's administration.

Six players were given full-time central contracts in January and it is clear that Cricket Ireland is not short on ambition.

The team will be further strengthened next year by the return of Sussex batsman Ed Joyce, who declared for England in 2005 but failed to make a Test appearance.

Deutrom has suggested a gradual progression to Test cricket for Ireland in a bid to avoid becoming the new whipping boys for the likes of Australia, South Africa, England and India.

This would include Ireland playing the bottom-ranked Test teams, thus getting a feel for the longer version of the game while avoiding humiliating and damaging defeats.

It is a logical solution and the ICC should consider it as the best solution to bridging the current chasm between the elite and those striving to join them.

Because without the chance of upward mobility, the hard-earned progress will be replaced by stagnation and more Irishmen will have the three lions emblazoned on their chests.



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see also
Ruthless England seal innings win
06 Jun 10 |  England
Joyce wants to return for Ireland
24 May 10 |  Ireland
England through after rain drama
04 May 10 |  England
Ireland apply to join ICC elite
11 Feb 10 |  Ireland
McCallan points to Irish progress
27 May 08 |  Ireland
McCallan: Major surgery required
18 Oct 01 |  Northern Ireland


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