Sunday 18 August 2019

Hectic schedule a chance to make hay

'Deutrom (p) has expressed concern about Ireland's lowly T20 ranking and sees great benefits for his players ahead of the next qualifiers in October.' Photo: Sportsfile
'Deutrom (p) has expressed concern about Ireland's lowly T20 ranking and sees great benefits for his players ahead of the next qualifiers in October.' Photo: Sportsfile

Ger Siggins

Irish cricket's supremo Warren Deutrom will be casting nervous glances towards the skies this week as the tail of Storm Hannah makes its way across the country.

Next Friday sees the visit of England to Malahide for a one-day international, a fixture which in past years has been a boost to the coffers of the organisation.

It is the first of a hectic 18 days for the Ireland team, with at least seven ODIs against four visiting nations all looking to tune up in local conditions for the World Cup, which begins in England on May 30.

Of course, there's a bitter-sweet taste to these games for Ireland, who missed out on qualifying for the pinnacle of the 50-over game for the first time since 2003. This is the competition that brought the sport to wider attention here with the 2007 victory over Pakistan, and subsequent headline-grabbing wins against England in 2011 and West Indies four years later helped propel Cricket Ireland forward.

By July 14, Ireland's players will be concentrating on domestic matters while their former team-mate, Eoin Morgan, could be leading England to a first World Cup triumph, but there is hope on the horizon all the same, and a potential €2m windfall for Cricket Ireland.

On Tuesday, a Bollywood starlet, and two distinguished former India and Pakistan players will help launch the Euro T20 Slam, a new 20-over tri-located event made for television and kicking off in August. Dilip Vengsarkar and Wasim Akram, along with actor Yami Gautam, recently seen in Uri: The Surgical Strike, will unveil the event involving six franchise teams based around Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. They will play 33 games over a three-week period in Dublin, Edinburgh and Amsterdam, with a final in Malahide on September 22.

Deutrom has expressed concern about Ireland's lowly T20 ranking and sees great benefits for his players ahead of the next qualifiers in October.

"The performance objective is most important to us. Our ranking is down to the amount and level of T20 cricket we play, and now several players from our nearest rivals are getting opportunities to play in the biggest leagues."

Three Afghans and a Nepalese are currently playing in the Indian Premier League. Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling have played in several overseas tournaments, but not in the big two, Australia's Big Bash and the IPL.

The Euro T20 Slam squads will comprise at least nine 'domestic' players and a maximum of seven from overseas. The organisers say they will reveal some "big names" this week.

The competition is promoted and funded by Woods Entertainment and GS Holdings, who previously were involved with the Global T20 Canada last summer, in which O'Brien featured for the Edmonton Royals.

Being the first year of the tournament, Deutrom expects teething problems, but is confident the organisers have the expertise and experience.

"ICC has been keen to ensure tournaments are regulated properly as regards players and payments, and we've been working with them on this. The organisers were very patient while we put them through the wringer and did the due diligence.

"We're approaching this in the spirit of partnership but our main interest is in giving our players access to high-level T20 competition."

With 50-over games against England, West Indies, Bangladesh and Afghanistan over the next fortnight, Ireland coach Graham Ford is expected to use the opportunity to blood some of the players pushing for places.

The Tector brothers, Jack and Harry, are both expected to be capped sooner rather than later, while James McCollum, Lorcan Tucker and Barry McCarthy are due an extended run. If the interpros are any guide, there could also be a surprise call-up for opening bat Marc Ellison, a Kiwi now living in Belfast, who made 87 and 85 for the Northern Knights in La Manga, or big-hitting team-mate Mark Adair.

Ireland's ODI opponents Friday May 3: England (Malahide); Sunday 5: West Indies (Clontarf); Thursday 9: Bangladesh (Malahide); Saturday 11: West Indies (Malahide); Wednesday 15: Bangladesh (Clontarf); Friday 17: Tri-series final (Malahide); Sunday 19 and Tuesday 21: Afghanistan (Stormont)

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