On May 11th, 2018, Ireland will become the 11th country on this planet to play Test Cricket, a day that will go down as a milestone in the history of Irish Sports. Our cricket analyst Abhishek Srivastava takes a look at how the country’s cricket has travelled from bottom to the pinnacle of the game.
By the end of June, there will be 12 countries having Test status in Cricket. Out of 200 nations, nearly 90 play cricket but only a dozen can play the highest form of sport. Test Cricket has travelled 141 years and to have only 12 teams as its travelling partner also emancipates what Ireland has achieved and considering the cost associated with Test cricket and growing popularity of T-20 Cricket, this award of test status becomes even rare. In such circumstances, it would not be wrong to say that Ireland and Afghanistan had got the test status at the right time.
Afghanistan’s rise has caught many eyes, generating a discussion about how in just a decade they transformed themselves from refugee camps in Pakistan to play the highest form of the game. On the other hand, Ireland journey though has been less discussed probably because they are a developed country with a secure and high standard of living.
Afghanistan have inherited cricket from Pakistan, and the passion has grown manifold in recent years, Ireland, on the other hand, does not have such pleasure and Cricket ranks very low among top sports of the country.
Cricket in Ireland started way back in 1730 when the game was played in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Clongowes Wood College was playing cricket in the 1820s and had its local playing regulations – that you couldn’t be out if you dragged on, and that fielder could stop the ball with his coat. In 1855, Ireland beat the Gentlemen of England. Ireland’s debut as a first-class team was in 1902 when they beat a London County side that included Grace.
In 1969, the West Indies went to Sion Mills straight from their England tour to play a match with Ireland. With everyone agreeing that it was West Indies that people have come to watch, West Indies batted first without a toss. However what happened next is only a few people remember today, the Caribbeans were gunned down only for 25 by opening bowlers Alec O’ Riordan and Dough Goodwin.
Then Cricket fell away in the country and went down in radar as other sports excelled, just like in the United States. Both the states saw the game as England’s game, and while America adopted Baseball and American Football, Ireland adopted Gaelic Football and Hurling.
However, the 2007 World Cup was the year of getting recognition for Irish Cricket. The Country’s cricket took big step beating Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011 World Cup, but it didn’t mean that they were financially healthy as well. Malahide, the main cricket ground did not have grandstands, toilets, indoor training facility till 2013. The majority of the Ireland people didn’t know there was such a cricket team of their country. Those who like Cricket and follow the game are tagged as West Brits by others.
Then came the economic boom for Cricket Ireland which helped Irish Cricket to find its feet. Things started to get better as it started playing more games though with lower ranked countries but the team continued to impress, and it started the talk of awarding the test status to the nation. Then came the big day 21st June 2017 at London when Ireland along with Afghanistan was awarded the Test Status ending a long wait.
On 11th May at the Village, Ireland will begin a new journey as a full member of ICC. Something they should be proud of, a milestone only 12 countries in 141 years of game’s history has achieved to date. 11 Years ago when Ireland played against Pakistan not even the staunchest of her supporter would have thought about this day to arrive so quickly. But then it’s here for generations to remember.