Image courtesy of: Zimbio
What do you want to be when you’re older? A question that is asked around the world to the younger generation. My answer was always to be a Test cricketer. Now being a kid growing up in Dublin, not only did you have to explain what cricket was but also what Test cricket was.
One person who did understand Test cricket was my brother, he was Shane Warne and I was Michael Vaughan.
Like most kids my age with an interest in cricket, the fiercest battle we came across was the daily stump cricket Test match in the nets. Following a long day of toil, we would arrive home to be asked if Vaughan or Warne won. Needless to say we both had our days.
Fast forward 20 years and the real possibility of Test cricket for Ireland is on the agenda, whether it be second tier, third tier, fourth tier, whatever. If it means there is a chance to fulfil my lifelong dream, then it’s something worth pursuing.
Of course I say dream because as it stands that’s all it is, but with murmurs coming from the ICC of a two-tier Test system, and with us sitting nicely on top of the I-Cup table, it certainly feels more like a reality than before.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should just be handed Test cricket, I’m aware it doesn’t work like that. But for nine years now we have been hammering down the door and doing all that is asked of us to be given the chance at the next level, which is Test cricket.
Before 2007 we were a relatively small cricketing nation, taking part in ICC trophies with the aim to qualify for World Cups every four years. Near misses in 1997 and 2001 meant it would not be until 2005 that we finally got the monkey off our back and qualified for our first ICC event.
Now unless you were under a rock for those memorable weeks in the Caribbean, you would have seen 15 Irish players make history and realise their dreams. At the same time they were also inspiring a generation and opening many people’s eyes in Ireland to this wonderful game that was to many a cross between baseball and hurling.
Seeing the buzz around the country when it comes to our sport makes you feel proud that you can contribute to that as much as any sportsman or woman in the country. We are a great country and when it comes to sports, there’s no denying that.
Whether it be the Irish Rugby Team winning Six Nations, Katie Taylor winning anything and everything and only recently both sides of the border qualifying for the last 16 of Euro 2016, we all become enthralled in sports. We want to know everything about it and whoever is competing. We all want heroes, no matter what our age. And that’s no different when it comes to cricket.
What the Irish cricket team has achieved in the last 10 years is nothing short of outstanding, we’ve produced results that other national teams in the country can only dream of, Sabina Park 2007, Trent Bridge 2009, Bangalore 2011, Nelson 2015. Not too mention a capacity 10,000 crowd watching us play England in Malahide.
A sufficient Inter Pro setup has been in place for three years now, with three formats been played throughout the summer. Needless to say, it is producing some quality young cricketers and helping them make that step up to international cricket. We’ve had a golden generation no doubt but these steps will help us produce a generation that can perform at Test cricket.
It’s 2016 and I hope that in another nine years, first and foremost, my hips are still intact, but more importantly Test cricket is thriving in Ireland and kids around the country are battling it out in stump test’s just as myself, Barry McCarthy and Stuart Poynter did.
Column by Andy Balbirnie