Cricket World Cup: Ed Joyce ready for his Irish rebirth
ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Dates: 19 February-2 April Venues: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Coverage:
Highlights on BBC TV
Red Button & BBC Sport website at 2200 GMT every day (UK users only); Live Test Match Special commentary (BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website, some games also on BBC Radio 4 LW) and live text commentary on all England matches and selected other major games; Also live on Sky Sports.
Ed Joyce in action against New Zealand in a warm-up game earlier this month
By John Haughey
Ed Joyce can see the funny side now, but at the time it was a head-down walk back to the pavilion in Guyana as Boyd Rankin seemed to almost rub in the celebration after dismissing his former Irish team-mate.
"Niall O'Brien very helpfully says it's his favourite moment in World Cup history," smiles Joyce recalling his brief innings for England against his native country in the last World Cup.
But four years on, the three men are on the same team as Joyce returns to Ireland colours after a 17-game England stint in 2006 and 2007.
After 50 appearances for Ireland between 1997 and 2005, the Dublin-born player took the decision to declare for England in the hope of forging a Test career.
As fate would have it, his first England appearance was in Belfast in June 2006 against an Ireland team that included his younger brother Dominic.
"It was a strange happening and I didn't really enjoy it if I'm honest," acknowledges the 32-year-old.
"Playing against Ireland wasn't ideal. I would have preferred if I had never had to do it but two of my 17 games were against them and I didn't play particularly well in either.
"Maybe that says enough in itself although of course I was trying my hardest to help England win both times."
But Joyce hadn't made the switch to the Three Lions jersey to play one-day cricket.
Marcus Trescothick's early departure from the Ashes tour in Australia in late 2006 led to Joyce getting the call to head Down Under.
With Joyce on the sidelines, the defence of the famous urn didn't go to plan for England but the Irishman didn't get a chance to sample the Test arena - even during the two closing dead rubbers.
I probably deserved a few more opportunities with England but it just wasn't to be
"I was disappointed. Especially when England were losing 3-0 I thought I might get one of the last games to bed me in but I didn't get the opportunity.
"I don't regret giving it a go. I really wanted to play Test cricket."
A one-day century in Sydney after the Ashes helped secure Joyce's place at the World Cup in the Caribbean a couple of months later but despite a couple of fifties against minnows Canada and Kenya, the left-hander was out of favour by the following summer.
"I had a few good knocks (for England) but didn't really set the world alight.
"I averaged 27 after 16 or 17 games. I would have loved a few more opportunities and probably deserved a few more opportunities to be honest, but it just wasn't to be.
"Sometimes you get involved in a winter (tour) like that where the Ashes went particularly badly and the World Cup went particularly badly.
"You get associated with that and that was certainly the case with me and maybe two or three others."
From 2007 to '09, even after his move from Middlesex to Sussex, Joyce continued to plunder runs on the county circuit but while he was included in a Champions Trophy squad, there were to be no more England appearances.
"I was scoring heavily in county cricket for most of my career.
"But obviously in the last two or three years, England have been playing particularly good cricket and they haven't changed the team at all really - particularly in Test cricket with the batting.
"I suppose you have to look at it philosophically because otherwise you would go mad."
The realisation that his chances of an England recall appeared to be receding had already embedded itself into his mind by the time Cricket Ireland started to make overtures about a possible return to playing for his native country.
"Cricket Ireland wanted me to come back and play and I was already thinking about it. It was sort of a meeting of minds.
"I felt Irish cricket had a future and I could add something to it.
"I was 31 at that stage and thinking I didn't want to leave it for a couple of years when I felt I wouldn't be able to give my best for Ireland."
Initially, Joyce agreed to come back into the Ireland fold fully expecting to sit out the 2011 World Cup because of ICC regulations.
Both Joyce and New Zealander Hamish Marshall had declared for Ireland and under the letter of the qualification-period rules, looked likely to miss out on the tournament.
"I was fairly sceptical that they would let me play in the World Cup," says Joyce.
"Both Hamish and I were speaking about it and it really wasn't just about playing in the World Cup.
"We both said that it wouldn't be a disaster if we didn't play (in the World Cup) and were happy to bide out time until the clearance came through."
But Cricket Ireland wisely decided to chance their arm on the duo's eligibility and it yielded a result as Joyce got word during an Irish training camp in India in November that his application had been successful, with Marshall having to wait until next summer.
"I'm an Irishman and it's good to get back playing in the green," adds Joyce.
"I was a little bit tentative going out to India in November when I hadn't played with Ireland for a while but there was no issue at all."
Joyce quickly saw a set-up that had "moved on hugely" since his first Irish stint.
"It's become professional and you have all the proper meetings and technology and back-up stuff and the standard has gone up too.
"The talent was there before but a lot of guys now can consider cricket their primary source of income and can practice 24/7 if they need to.
Boyd Rankin celebrates Ed Joyce's dismissal at the 2007 World Cup
"You take a guy like Trent Johnston who always had niggly little injuries and was going to work every day and driving for a lot of his life which didn't help him one little bit.
"Now he's able to go to the gym or the physio when he needs to and do his strength and conditioning work and get over that."
The increasingly professionalism of the squad - with 13 of the 16-man panel earning their living from the game - has enabled the Irish to build on their sensational World Cup heroics four years ago and the profile of the game has never been higher in the Emerald Isle.
"On the way to Dublin Airport when I was heading back to London in January, the taxi driver knew all about the players and side going to the World Cup and it was interesting coming from someone who was a 'proper Dub' and real sports fan who knew what was going on," recalls Joyce.
"And also cricket in Ireland has always had its own hotbeds where it's almost the biggest game in the area.
"Parts of north county Dublin like Skerries, Lusk and Rush and then up in Derry and Tyrone and places like Limavady, Strabane, Brigade etc etc.
"And of course, Irish people always like to see England getting beaten and if we can beat England, it will definitely help cricket to get even more into the Irish public's consciousness."
The clash with Joyce's former team takes place in Bangalore on 2 March but the Sussex county player agrees that Friday's opener against Bangladesh in Mirpur will "set the tone" for Ireland's cup campaign.
"It's a massively important game. If you can get off to a good start, it gives you momentum.
"And Bangladesh are a side Ireland has had success against - beating them in the last World Cup and in other one-day games.
"Obviously, we're going to be underdogs because they are at home and beat us 3-0 the last time there was a series in Bangladesh.
"But we're quietly confident that if we can get everything right, we certainly can run them close and hopefully beat them and then move on to the games against England and India which will be great fun.
"You never know in one of those two games if we can pull off an upset."
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