Posts Tagged ‘Cricket Ireland’

Sport. Cricket. pic: May 1985. Arundel, England. Duchess of Norfolk's XI v Australia. Kepler Wessels, Australia. Kepler Wessels, (a left-handed batsman) played Test cricket for both his native South Africa and Australia, in 40 matches between 1982-1994.

Clockwise from left Kepler Wessels, Iftikar Ali Khan Pataudi, Abdul Hafeez, Amir Elahi. Center : Gul Mohammad.

Whats common between Kepler Wessels, Iftikar Ali Khan Pataudi, Abdul Hafeez, Gul Mohammad and Amir Elahi? All of them played for two countries, not by choice but due to circumstances. Abdul Hafeez, Gul Mohammad and Amir Elahi played for India before Independence and for Pakistan post Independence. Kepler Wessels played for Australia due to Apartheid and later captained South Africa in their first test post lifting of the ban while the Senior Nawab of Pataudi, played for England as India did not have a representative team at all.

On similar lines we have another list: Ted Dexter, Phil Edmonds, Derek Pringle, Donald Carr, Paul Terry, Graeme Hick, Paul Parker and Freddie Brown. The list could be extended with a lot more names, but I’d like to restrict it to people who have made a significant impact in either county or test cricket. The list is made up of all the players who played for England but were born elsewhere i.e. South Africa or Germany or Italy or even Zambia. Most of them were professional cricketers when the ICC was still known as the Imperial Cricket Conference with the number of countries playing Test Cricket was just about half a dozen, while some of them played the sport as TCCB(Test and County Cricket Board) changed to ECB(England and Whales Cricket Board).

The final list consists of, Allan Lamb, Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Jonathan Trott, Ed Joyce, Eion Morgan, Boyd Rankin and Kevin Pietersen. On first glance, the stand out people from the crowd, no prizes for guessing them, Tony Greig and Kevin Pietersen, and why do they stand out? Well, how can anyone forget the infamous and now immortalized ‘Grovel’ interview, which was the reason for turning point for one of the greatest team, in the modern era, The West Indies team lead by Clive Lloyd. Or the Packer Brand of World Series Cricket, which in fact was the starting point for the transformation of the game from the Gentleman’s sport to a professional sport with commercial interests. If these two sum up the life of Tony Greig, Kevin Pietersen has a long list of controversies to his name. To put in a nutshell, KP is the only person to have such a greatly polarized opinion of both his personal and professional life by his fans and critics alike. So what is common between them and the rest of the players in the list? Much similar to the previous lists, all of them pledged their loyalties to England even when they were of different nationalities, most notably South Africa and Ireland.

England have taken in far too many players pledging their support to the nation and it does not seem to stop anytime soon. So how are they able to attract such an inflow of talent? the only answer to this, ‘The Kolpak Ruling‘. Much has already spoken about the ruling and the tremendous impact it has had on Cricket especially in the county circuit which has a direct influence on the English Cricket team.

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KP is the stalwart in this scenario. Unwilling to give in to the racial quota system, moved out of the  country to play in the county circuit. Once he had fulfilled the criteria of playing for four years in England, he was immediately picked to play for the country, keeping the selectors faith, he repaid heavy dividends by averaging 104 in his first serious. But the
following series to his native South Africa would be the apt description of his life. He was booed, jeered, heckled and called a traitor, but his critics were no match to his sheer brilliance on field and ultimately received a standing ovation on his final ton. It just proves that, whenever he is snubbed, it the team’s loss, never I repeat NEVER his loss.

The same applies to the current England team. They seem to be lacking a world class batsmen capable of taking the challenge and to take the game away from the opposition. Agreed there will be greats in every generation for every team, but England are still in the process of finding one who can replace KP. Many names have been suggested, but none were able to match up to his caliber. But one thing is for sure, given the English mindset and their expectations of a player to be more conservative, KP trying to make a come back into the team seems to be a distant dream.

Knowing KP and his thirst for runs, being a T20 mercenary or sitting in the commentary box is never his personality. So instead of waiting for the eventual dwindling into the horizon, KP should accept the fact that his English dreams are long but over and to quench his thirst should again switch allegiance. No, I’m not asking him to move back to his country of birth and play for South Africa, but instead play for IRELAND. I know this might be the most shocking fact in recent cricket history, but this move has more advantages than its share of controversies. First, Ireland’s benefit with having a star batsmen among their ranks, would not be restricted only to his experience, but would make cricket more popular than ever as it brings more than just a few controversies. Second, KP would be in a position where he is more welcomed and celebrated rather than question his entire intent of cricket. And last but not the least, it would ensure that England, would for the first time get to taste their own medicine, and understand how bitter a medicine it is when they served it to Ireland through the likes of Ed Joyce, Eion Morgan and Boyd Rankin, when they lured them with the chance of playing Test Cricket. While none of them had a successful career in Test, two of them even returning back to Ireland and the other one is no longer in contention for Test cricket.

Now imagine in Ireland’s first tour of England in May 2017, the second ODI at the home of cricket, KP wearing the St. Patrick’s green jersey coming down at the fall of Paul Stirling, another great attacking batsmen for Ireland, and providing a strong stability to a side which finds itself at the crossroads in limited overs cricket and getting to a maiden hundred on debut for Ireland, ultimately leading to a fine win for Ireland. I know the odds of such a thing happening is 300-1 but I still would like to remain optimistic about such an outcome where we see KP launching his boundaries against his former team mates.

With the likes of Kolpak ruling drawing in his favor, if KP could play in the Irish domestic season for just one year, I’m pretty sure, he could go ahead and play for Ireland sooner than possible. Having read so much about his flamboyance and his sheer disregard of the controversies that affect him and take it to the chin, KP could and should definitely consider this option and should once again pursue life as an international cricketer, which would not only benefit him but Cricket in Ireland and to some extent the leading associates. But the question remains, if KP would consider this option…

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Every now and then, maybe quite far, a question always pops up in the cricket community. ‘Should cricket be included in the Olympics’. It usually gathers steam, when the Olympics is near and forgotten no sooner than the Olympic Closing Ceremony. To be honest, I’m a supporter of Cricket to be included in the Olympics, but what I really want is cricket to be played in more than just the traditional 9 and a half countries where test cricket is played now(Zimbabwe being the half country and I’m sure nobody would oppose me in counting them as half).

The ICC and the member boards have constantly opposed to Cricket to be included in the Olympics. I could quite understand the reason for this – the lack of profit from revenue to them, and the fact that the member boards must be answerable to the Government. These are reasons enough to make the think not just twice, but as many times as possible, for not only does it lose its money, but it needs to go through blatant redtapism, both of which are dreadful to the cricket boards and the ICC.

One of the first question that pops onto your mind whenever there is a topic about Cricket’s inclusion in Olympics is the concept of a global game i.e. can Cricket be considered as a truly global sport, considering the fact that it is just played in a handful of countries. As an ardent supporter of Cricket, I find the fundamental reason for the lack of spread of the game globally is the over reliance on a few countries be it for either commercial reasons or the imperialistic viewpoint. Once we move away from the pretend democracy that is prevalent from the time cricket originated i.e. Imperial England in the post war period or the Packer Cricket of Australia in the early 80s or the more recent “The Big Three Takeover”, and have an actual working democracy, the global popularity of the game takes care of itself.

So how do we popularize Cricket, thats a question that does not have an accurate answer, but if we can raise the quality and standard of cricket in the associate levels and getting them to play more and more cricket with quality opposition, cricket will have newer horizons. By quality opposition I dont mean and restrict only to the international sides, rather, their A teams, their domestic champions and of course the out of favor cricketers who have just passed their prime. These facts are not rocket science and or is it a something out of the ordinary. The quality of cricket increases when there is a clear structure, both domestic and international, complimented by an organised club cricket.

So how do we implement it to have a better structure, please look no further away. There are tried and tested formula with actual results. Still have a doubt, ever wondered how Zimbabwe still has world class players who have proved time and again that they are worthy of their play only to give up on their international career just to have a secure future for them and their families? Or how could an associate nation like Kenya reach the semi final of a World Cup? The answer lies in their domestic and club structure. Zimbabwe have been playing in South Africa’s domestic competition long before they were granted test status. Kenya had an excellent club structure with the likes of Sanjay Manjrekar, Sandeep Patil, Brian Lara playing and coaching various clubs. These two countries are also prime example of how corruption can ruin, not just cricket but the economy of their country as well. Hence, in order to ensure that the associate nations cricketing standard and skill set improves, The ICC and the member boards should take a collective step by allowing the associate nations to play the domestic structure of their neighboring countries which would have not just similar pitch conditions, but have a near identical weather.

The ICC in its efforts to ensure that the associate teams do have a better track record in the World Cup had invested heavily in them and ensured that they had good match practice and they did reap in the benefits when the associate nations showed capability to beat better teams, be it Kenya in the 1996 World Cup or all the associate nations in the 2015 World Cup. Whats more puzzling is the fact that, why does the ICC restrict these investments only for World Cups and not the rest of the time? This could not only be of valuable experience to the associate nations, but would go a long way in drawing talent and popularity to the game.

In retrospect, there is no harm in trying these concepts when the ICC has tried tried radical concepts like ‘Supersub’, which was more confusing than helpful. As the world is evolving, there is definitely nothing wrong in holding on to traditions, but at the same time, embracing change is how you get to survive. Agreed you will be bruised, but you would emerge more successful and more mature. Ultimately, The Game of Cricket would be able to survive in this ever changing world, if and only if we have more countries play cricket and have equal say in the administration.

With the recent change in governance in the ICC, the hope that Cricket expands to newer horizons has never seemed so bright, while at the same time with the changes being brought into the game, Cricket seems more exciting and engrossing to both the players and the audience. With crossed fingers lets hope that Cricket could find newer countries to call it as its home…