CHENNAI: Two summers have gone since Ireland gained Test status, which was seen by many as a delayed decision, especially going by how Bangladesh got fast-tracked. They came close to an upset in their maiden Test against Pakistan. They then lost to Afghanistan before coming close close to a miracle at Lord's last year, which eventually turned forgettable as they were bowled out for 38.
Life with elites was what Ireland wanted for years. But since entering the club, it has been anything but easy. Even before the coronavirus turned the world upside down, Cricket Ireland was neck deep in financial crisis. After hosting a Test match at Dublin cost them around one million Euros, they were forced to cancel the one-off fixture against Bangladesh scheduled for May (it was cancelled much before the pandemic).
With not much in reserves, Ireland had Tests against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe cancelled. Even T20s, seen as a money spinner by other boards, have proved costly to host as Cricket Ireland had to call off a five-match series against Afghanistan. Had the T20 World Cup been held as scheduled, Ireland would have gone with practically no matches under their belt.
"We knew it was going to be tough after gaining Test status. Test status doesn't mean everything has become easier. It is actually very hard from a financial point of view. It takes a lot to organise Test matches. I'm not a financial expert, but I know from outside the board makes significant losses to host Tests. As much as all the boys want to play high-level cricket day in and day out, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that needs to be taken care of to keep those games going. We are at the wrong side of it at the moment and the boys understand it. There is some fantastic work being done to not just keep us afloat but a profitable organisation going forward," Ireland captain William Porterfield told Express from Southampton.
Much of the financial difficulties have got to do with the time they got Test status (2017). It came after the ICC's 2015 financial cycle had already started and other members had to take some cut to feed Ireland and Afghanistan. But that will change in the next cycle.
"When we started we didn't really have any contract and it is no secret that a lot of us relied on county cricket to get the standard of cricket that was required to play at the international level. So to have zero contract to this in my playing career is a great testament to what is going on behind the scenes. We just have to be patient," said the opener.
Thursday will be a big occasion for Ireland. They face England in the first of three ODIs that kick off the Super League, which is a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup. "The volume of cricket ahead of us is massive, especially with qualification to the 2023 World Cup around. We unfortunately missed out last time which was really hard to take as a group. So it is exciting that we are getting back to normal cricket. There are seven spots up for the grabs and we want to be one of those. We have our eyes on that and are looking forward to playing these ODIs against England and getting some points early on," Porterfield added.
Porterfield is also well aware that Associate nations are catching up. USA, Oman have made significant progress and so has Papua New Guinea. Not to mention the Netherlands, who will also feature in the Super League.
"There have been massive strides made by the Associates, especially in the shortest format. I think a lot of countries are putting specific focus on shorter formats, especially T20s, and lot of countries have made big jumps in terms of performances. The T20 World Cup involves 16 teams even if you include the qualification round that is part of the main tournament. But once you get to that second tier, you have to work harder and play competitive cricket because you get chances to come up against better teams," Porterfield said.
England vs Ireland live on Sony Six, 6.30 PM onwards