Ireland and Afghanistan are the latest cricketing nations to receive Test match status as they were voted in as full members by the sport’s governing body
By Phil Rice
Test cricket is the ability of a nation to play a game over five days, and before their additions only ten international teams held this status.
At a gathering in Dublin, after the announcement last week, staff, players, union representatives, volunteers, sponsors and government officials heard of the ‘remarkable journey’ the sport has undergone to achieve acceptance in the top echelons of world cricket.
Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom outlined just how rapidly the sport had developed in such a relatively short time, but emphasized that he saw the historic decision as just the beginning for the sport in Ireland.
“Last month, the night before our historic match against England at Lord’s I said that Irish cricket is crossing a Rubicon – yesterday, we crossed it!
“By becoming a [Test-playing nation and] full member of ICC, we have completed one stage of a journey that has taken Irish cricket from marginal and mostly ignored to one of the premier nations in the world’s 2nd biggest sport.
“And it is a journey that has been travelled with remarkable speed.
“Just 10 years ago our then-new corporate strategy outlined one of its key goals as the Ireland team being competitive in England’s county club competition.
“Every time we set ourselves a mountain to climb, we do so. We have always believed that the shame is not in failing to reach an ambitious target, but rather being afraid to try.
“And having proven our credentials to the world cricket community, we now have the opportunity to achieve an even bigger goal, which is to make cricket a mainstream sport in Ireland.
“In the last four years, we have rapidly realised that producing a competitive Test team is in fact only one part of a much bigger whole – that instead our goal needs to be broader and further reaching – that it needs to envision Ireland not just being a major force in cricket, but cricket being a major force in Ireland.
“Everywhere I look in Irish cricket, I see people with the talent and desire to succeed on the field of play, and off it.
“I see accomplished players, talented youngsters, dedicated volunteers, generous sponsors and a growing profile.
“I see a desire for success, a burning self-belief and a willingness to innovate and embrace best practice.
“With all this in place, and the game finally ready to embrace change, where might we be in the next 10 years,” concluded Deutrom.
One of Ireland’s most senior international Ed Joyce also paid tribute to the tireless efforts of everyone who made the remarkable journey possible.
“We all owe a big debt of thanks to the players, volunteers, coaches and supporters that have brought us to this point,” said Joyce.
“However this can’t be the end point of the journey and the really hard work starts now. Joyce made his debut back in 1997 against Scotland, and is amazed by the transformation in the game during those two decades.
“When I started playing cricket for Ireland, the idea of us playing at test level was ridiculous so to be a small part of this journey makes me very proud.”
Joyce sounded a word of caution that there may well be testing times ahead with the elevation, but felt that solid foundations were already in place.
“Getting to the point where we’re consistently competitive could take a while and we have to be ready for that as well but hopefully this is the start of a special time for cricket in Ireland.
“We’ve achieved quite a lot with very little over the last decade so with the extra funding and fixtures that comes with yesterday’s announcement, we should be able to speed up our progress.”
He also congratulated Afghanistan, who were also given Test status, and hoped that other countries would follow suit in the coming years. “I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Afghanistan too for their elevation.
“Their cricketing story is an incredible one and they deserve everything that is coming their way. “Hopefully yesterday opens the door for more countries to get elevated status. Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD expressed his delight at Cricket Ireland’s achievement of Test status.
“This a great result for the hard work put in by many people over many years in developing Irish cricket. “This development is a massive milestone for the sport in Ireland and is a landmark date as no other country has received full membership since Bangladesh in 2000. We can all be truly proud of what Cricket Ireland has achieved.”
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin TD, welcomed the achievement by Cricket Ireland, saying at the conference: “Irish cricket is now at the top table in world cricket and Irish fans can look forward with relish to seeing some great cricket fixtures in the coming years.
“In recent weeks, we have seen some wonderful cricket in the ICC Champions Trophy, ultimately won by Pakistan and the thought of Ireland competing against such top cricketing nations in Test cricket is an exciting prospect.”