England v Ireland: ODI series review

The 2-0 scoreline won’t come as a surprise to many people, nor indeed the one sided nature of the matches, particularly the first of them.  In some ways the belated nature of finally inviting Ireland to play is symptomatic of a game that seems hell bent on trying to limit growth (except financial to the chosen few) rather than assume a missionary zeal to ensure it widens its frontiers.

Ireland found a collection of decent players and created a buzz in the country with their magnificent win over England in Bangalore.  Unquestionably cricket became a game on the up throughout the island, clubs reported huge increases in interest and new ones were formed.  Visitors to Ireland would pass on anecdotes of how cricket would crop up in conversation, something that never happened to that point.  This was, without question, a good news story.  From being a fringe sport, it became one that might not have quite reached the mainstream, but certainly had aspirations to do so.  The iron was hot, and it was time to strike.  Naturally enough, the ICC didn’t do that.  No pathway to Test status was offered, no formalisation of the potential for a new nation at the top level was created.  Instead proposals to curtail the World Cup were approved, the result of which was to make life harder for nations like Ireland.  With qualification so difficult, every match became vital, every side put out had to win.  

This team have got old together, and while all involved insist there is talent beneath the surface there haven’t always been the opportunities for them to move up and take the side to the next level.  How Ireland have managed their young players is something open to debate, but it surely must be a concern to see so many of the same names in the side as there were six years ago.  

The trouble is, we’ve been here before, hence the concern.  At one point Kenya looked like they might be the ones to break through, and in Steve Tikolo they had a national cricketing icon to take them on.  But the help they had was limited, domestic problems curtailed progress, and a generation faded away along with hopes for a new cricketing nation.

The reason why this enrages so many is the double standards.  Bangladesh were fast tracked into international cricket on little more than a wing and a prayer and with no first class infrastructure at all.  The ECB, perhaps rather astonishingly, actually seem to have provided reasonable assistance to Irish cricket – to the point that Cricket Ireland openly praised them saying they couldn’t wish for a better full member sponsor.  Yet despite this the suspicion is that many Test nations are opposed to Ireland’s promotion on the grounds that it might dilute their own power, the same reasoning in reverse that led to Test status for Bangladesh.  If this is true, it is perhaps one of the worst examples of the skewed priorities involved among the powerful who care so little for the game, and so much for lucre.  Bangladesh weren’t even close to being ready for the top level, and many said so at the time. Yet given they have reached the point where they are competitive now, as they showed against England last year, a good case could be made that however long it took, it was a price worth paying for expanding the global game.

Ireland six years ago were THE good news story of cricket.  They remain a decent enough side who weren’t out of their depth in the second match, and who could have pushed England closer than they did had things gone a bit better for them.  The problem is that whereas these two matches should have been a celebration of a rising country come to take its place at the top table, there’s the fear that cricket as a sport is going to miss the opportunity.  There is no reason at all why Ireland should not have been and should not now be granted the same opportunities as Bangladesh were, unless those opposed are doing so on the basis that the Bangladesh decision was wrong, and is still wrong.  Few are making that argument.

Ireland playing England at Lord’s was wonderful.  If the game of cricket fails to support them sufficiently to ensure that it’s a regular event, that’s something for which they should hang their heads in shame.  In no other sport is the development of it beyond its normal borders considered to be a problem that needs solving rather than a glorious opportunity.  


21 thoughts on “England v Ireland: ODI series review

  1. alecpaton May 7, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    It’s a shame that in many respects Ireland have failed to kick on, although a little unsurprising.

    There are significant differences between them and Kenya however. Mainly Ireland has introduced profesional FC, List A and T20 structures. The nearby presence of England means that players also have options to play over here as well. Frankly though, after the 2007 and 2011 world cups Ireland should have been invited to play test cricket, it took Bangladesh a decade and a half to even get decent in the longest format, Ireland would probably take far less time if given enough money and exposure.


    • thelegglance May 7, 2017 / 6:35 pm

      Indeed so. But Kenya never had that opportunity or help to get them to that point. They had nothing at all.


      • alecpaton May 7, 2017 / 6:44 pm

        No. It was an idiotic waste, especially as some creative thinking (perhaps earlier giving test status to East Africa as was once mooted) may have extended the game.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH May 8, 2017 / 7:48 am

        So these comments date from 2009? I doubt Deutrom feels like that now – not that he can say it, of course.

        Ireland have been treated abysmally by the ECB in the last decade. I’m not sure why you’ve highlighted the role of the ICC and other FMs and downplayed the role of the ECB. The ICC only has as much power as the large boards allow and it’s not surprising that other FMs, having been made to fight so hard for FM status (SL should have got it at least a deacde earlier, for example), should have developed a closed-club mentality about FM status (especially when one couples that with the financial insecurity the Big Three have cultivated in smaller FMs this decade).

        I’m also not convinced that comparisons with Kenya and Bangladesh are particularly helpful. Kenya never had the infrastructure Ireland have, allegations of match-fixing swirled around their team (remember Maurice Odumbe?) and there are massive regional security issues. FM-status was never sustainable there. Bangladesh, on the other hand, had enormous potential when granted FM status. They are a massive country in a cricket-mad part of the world with high participation levels and age-group successes. They’ve taken some time to find their feet at Test level but then every country has. The only surprise was how long it took them – but the game is reaping the rewards now.

        The recent volte face by Giles Clarke on growing the game is welcome but highly questionable in my view. Clarke seems after their vote both for his ICC reform plans (Ireland were one of the three Associate voters recently) and for his own ambitions as ICC Chairman. I think he sees Ireland as serving as the warm-up act for tours of England, much like Bangladesh did for England touring India last winter. I don’t think he sees them as genuine equals or that he wouldn’t drop them if he didn’t need them anymore. If Clarke has been genuinely converted, why hasn’t the format of the 2019 WC been reformed?


      • thelegglance May 8, 2017 / 10:00 am

        Because there are a few important point there. Firstly that even at the time the assumption was that the ECB were out to get them and that’s the only statement they’ve ever made and it was glowing. Second, it would clearly be in the interests of the ECB to have another full member on their doorstep who would be inclined to support the ECB’s position rather than say India’s – the installation of Bangladesh moved the balance to allow India to maintain a blocking minority when needed. If Ireland is brought in, then that changes.

        It’s not saying the ECB are doing anything for altruistic purposes at all, it’s saying that playing the machiavellian power game makes the promotion of Ireland in their overall interests. There’s no point at all just assuming that the ECB themselves are out to get them, it’s pure conspiracy theory.

        Do they care about Irish cricket? Absolutely not. But the bigger problem remains the ICC rather than the ECB, for all the above reasons. It is not in the interests of the other big players to have them inside the tent and weakening their own position.

        The wider attitude to the associates is one which all the full members are guilty of, and the big three especially. Singling out the ECB there is a bit pointless when the problem is shared across them all.

        For Bangladesh, certainly there was potential, but at the time they had no first class model and by no measure could they have been called ready, because absolutely no work had gone in to make them ready. The contrast with Ireland is that there has been a lot of work to get them ready, and still they are going nowhere.


      • SimonH May 8, 2017 / 11:11 am

        I focus on the ECB’s role in not growing the game because 1) I’m English and the behaviour of my own board interests me 2) I find English media sources extremely reluctant to consider the ECB’s role so I’m trying to fill in what I see as a gap in the discussion. I’m well aware about the BCCI’s behaviour and if I was Australian (or felt CA was massively powerful in the ICC) I’d have plenty to say about their dismal record in spreading the game (which is worse than England’s in many ways).

        I’m not arguing the ECB have particularly had it in for Ireland specifically. I think the agenda has been more to contract Test cricket outside the Big Three generally. I think the ECB have, along with the BCCI, been instrumental in ensuring India get as many games at ICC tournaments as possible to maximise TV revenue which has hit Ireland. They (and Clarke specifically) have been the leading force in keeping cricket out of the Olympics which also hits Ireland.

        I really don’t think Deutrom’s praising the ECB in 2009 amounts to a hill of beans. He had to say that. One of the joys of the 2015 WC was the Irish finally giving up on flattery as a strategy to get them anywhere with FMs and letting rip on how they really felt about their treatment.

        On Bangladesh, I’m not going to claim great expertise on their f/c structure. However, they won the Plate trophy at the 1998 U19 WC (meaning they were effectively 9th – they also beat England in the groups stages) and they lost the Plate Final in 2000 (meaning they were tenth – the qualifying for that tournament was wrecked by rain and they lost the Final to an SA side including Graeme Smith). Those results suggest to me: 1) Bangladesh were legitimately seen as “next cab off the rank” for Test status on merit 2) they must have had some sort of decent youth structure. I don’t doubt that one reason they got FM status was to enlarge the so-called ‘Asian bloc’ at the ICC at the time but it doesn’t seem to me egregiously unmeritocratic on cricketing grounds.

        Ideally, I’d like to scrap the whole FM concept in the game, but that’s for another day….


        • thelegglance May 8, 2017 / 11:36 am

          It’s a question of following the money. The opposition to the Olympics thing is for the same reason – it’s a tournament that the ICC won’t control and can’t monetise directly. Clarke gave the game away when he talked about it being a problem fixture wise, what he meant was that there would be no revenue earning opportunities while it was on.

          And that’s why the ECB/ICC thing is important. Ireland as a full member would generally be in the interests of the ECB (and CA for that matter), but not in the interests of the BCCI. I’m not going to focus on the isolation of a single board when there’s far more going on here and that single board is part of the whole and not one that can drive it. We know why the big three are behaving the way they are and Ireland is caught up in that generally. But it remains true that if you take the ECB’s interests as a whole, it would be beneficial to them to have Ireland involved as a full member, so why would they actively seek to prevent it? The statement Cricket Ireland made is only relevant in the sense that it’s the only one they’ve really made, and while it was a long time ago now, it was far more effusive than it needed to be.

          So let’s take it from the perspective of what the ECB would like to achieve. We know there’s no desire to expand the game per se, that’s not what motivates them. Likewise we know they are interested more than anything in finance and power and the two correlate with each other. But here’s the rub – from the ECB perspective it makes sense that they can use Ireland to achieve that, Ireland as a full member actually enhances their position, not weakens it, so even from the starting point that we don’t trust them as far as we can throw them it still works in their favour to bring Ireland on.

          Let’s look at it another way: If we think the worst of the ECB (which is pretty easy to do) where’s the advantage in preventing them having full status? The World Cup shrinkage is a slightly different subject, and we know the rationale behind that, but that notwithstanding, there are no benefits for the ECB in having Ireland outside the party. The BCCI dominates the ICC and the ECB can’t control them, even with Australia onside. The BCCI ensure that the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe always vote with them, and that provides the majority they need. If Ireland were involved, that dynamic changes, and the ECB/CA position, based on being fairly sure that CI would generally be on their side, would be enhanced.

          I’m as cynical about the ECB’s motivations as you are, but the reality is that it suits them perfectly to promote Ireland in their own interests. That it still isn’t happening suggests rather strongly that the blockage is elsewhere.


      • SimonH May 8, 2017 / 1:11 pm

        Interesting ideas, but I’m not totally convinced. I’m not at all sure Ireland would be reliable supporters of the ECB/CA line on the ICC. Wouldn’t they look to align themselves with other smaller nations? (To use a Cold War metaphor, a non-aligned grouping seems more Ireland’s likely position). Clarke is confident he can manage boards like Pakistan (they are the sort he deals with in his business career) but he’d be suspicious of a board like Ireland (a, er, model of good governance, if you know what I mean. Clarke doesn’t come across good governance much).
        We need to remember that Ireland’s prospective Test status is not going to accompanied by FM status (breaking the FM-Test link for the first time).

        Follow the money? Generally a sound idea! I’m not sure it leads where you are claiming, though. The big bucks are in TV rights for Big-Three matches, T20 franchises and ICC tournaments. There’s no money in playing Ireland. The ECB/CA direction of travel is to drive down fixtures against non-B3 teams so why would they want to create one more? They want 35 Tests in the world in a year – that’s going to be difficult enough to achieve without another Test-playing team!
        Ireland’s big sin is that they’ve prioritised Tests over T20 which is definitely not with the current ECB/CA programme.

        The politics on the ICC board have changed a lot just in the last few months. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are no longer reliable BCCI allies. The BCCI is in a real mess with the CoA, Indian TV revenues for international matches are declining and India-Pakistan relations terrible. The ECB is possibly about to secure a massive new TV deal with a Sky/BT bidding war. It’s a different world now to the Srini-Giles-Wally love-in.

        Finally, just to throw another piece into the jigsaw, there’s the question of the USA. They’re desperate to break the US TV market which would be helped by fast-tracking the US team into ICC tournaments (just how shameless they’re going to be about doing that is going to be fun to see!). Allowing Ireland in could smooth the way to that goal in a number of ways.


        • thelegglance May 8, 2017 / 2:06 pm

          In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be lovely if they could align themselves with the smaller nations! The trouble is that in all such organisations the big players have disproportionate (well, you could argue it’s proportionate in some senses) power. The problem that Ireland have is that they’re right next door to a large and (relatively) successful professional structure, one where their better players automatically go. That doesn’t for a second make them “reliable supporters” but it does mean the interests to some extent coincide.

          You’re right about Clarke, and hes such a snake that it’s hard to see beyond him and his machinations. But the board interests do ultimately tend to take precedence, eventually. Incidentally, I’m glad you brought up the differential between full membership and Test status, because I’ll be interested to see if that’s in any way tenable. Once you have effectively granted a nation equal status, to then withhold part of it is going to be a fascinating thing to watch. I’m not even sure that wouldn’t be subject to legal challenge at some point given its clear inequity but that’s just a guess.

          On the follow the money bit that’s conflating two separate issues. You’re dead right that’s where all the revenue is, and Ireland aren’t remotely a part of that. But what I’m arguing is that in order to see a path where England can maximise what they get, they need to get support. Now, by pretending that they’re a friend of the smaller nations, is one way to try and do it, but they need to have a big enough grouping who desire that more than they fear BCCI retribution. It’s all politics and shifting power bases. And that’s why the switch back from the Big Three idea becomes so important. When that was approved none of that support was needed. Now it is.

          The TV opportunities also open up a can of worms. All of these organisations love the power they have, and while they want the money, they don’t want to give away that power. That’s why China is such a fascinating case study. In cricketing terms it’s ripe for growth there and has the potential to grow exponentially in a way the USA simply doesn’t, given its mature sporting nature. But instead of throwing money at China they’ve done the opposite and restricted it heavily. Why have they done that? Well, in terms of what we know your guess is as good as mine, but here’s the thing: A powerful and wealthy China in cricket would be a huge shift in the centre of gravity of the game. And who loses out were that to happen?


      • Rooto May 8, 2017 / 4:48 pm

        Just to throw in a quick thought: Ireland’s FM status is tied in with Afghanistan’s, and the Afghans probably have a better case, on the playing side. India host Afghanistan’s matches, so you’d imagine they’ve got an ally there. Ireland perhaps serve as a good counterweight against an expanded sub-continental bloc, in the mind of Clarke.


      • SimonH May 9, 2017 / 7:44 am

        Rooto, you may well be right that that’s how Clarke is looking at it – I suspect ‘the Asian bloc’ has become like some sort of horror story English cricket administrators hear on their mother’s knee as the only time in the game’s history when England were frozen out of the running of the show. You’re dead right, of course, about Afghanistan’s claim to Test status.

        The Asian bloc is so divided (whether by accident or design) that any re-emergence looks highly unlikely in any foreseeable future. I also wouldn’t assume Afghanistan would necessarily be automatic allies of the BCCI.


  2. Mark May 7, 2017 / 6:57 pm

    Well at least the crowd got a good days cricket. Best part of 600 runs scored, and nearly all the overs completed. The last 3 overs of the England innings took them to a score that I don’t think Ireland were ever going to challenge. I guess this is an example of the England that “petrifies” the rest of the world? Pity the bloke who said it, could not petrify anyone with his runs.

    What have we learned? Nothing really. Ireland are over the hill, and England are a good ODI side. How good remains to be seen.

    I don’t know what the answer is for the smaller nations. It’s hard enough for the likes of Sri Lanka, WI and New Zealand these days. And with India saying that they are determined to remain the most powerful cricket nation in the world I doubt much will change.

    Personally I think the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan should try to play each other a lot more. Even if the matches are not given official ICC test status, they can play as many 5 day matches as they like. At least they get cricket. Of course cost is always the nagging problem, but if they are not official test matches you don’t need all the bells and whistles. It’s not great, but I don’t see what the alternatives are.


  3. SimonH May 7, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    ” The ECB, perhaps rather astonishingly, actually seem to have provided reasonable assistance to Irish cricket – to the point that Cricket Ireland openly praised them saying they couldn’t wish for a better full member sponsor”.

    Can you provide a link to these comments? I don’t remember them and would like to read them.

    Do you think they can be taken at face value?


  4. SimonH May 8, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    Morgan using up this year’s quota of ‘England leader says something sensible to the press’ on the Billings “petrified” comment:

    ““I think Sam is rediscovering the word ‘petrified’. That is not true at all. We are not favourites. We went to India in January and didn’t win, we lost our last series to Australia [at home in 2015]. We need to beat big sides to earn that right and the guys know that in the changing room”.


    • SimonH May 9, 2017 / 10:22 am

      Is there some sort of law that says some sensible talk must be followed by some nonsense:


      England beat the 12th ranked team (and there are only 12 ranked teams – and that ranking is based on pre-2104 results). That makes them favourites? No wonder Swann fronted those betting company adverts!


    • Mark May 9, 2017 / 4:31 pm

      I always thought it would be a really interesting problem if he started to score runs for England on a regular basis because of his so called lack of fitness. Or what used to be called a little tubby. Unfortunately his lack of success made it pretty easy for the ECB management.

      What would happen if we ever came up with a spin bowler nearly as good as Warne who was fat? Would they play him or not?


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