“(The ECB) does as much as they have the time, effort and resources to do” (Warren Deutrom, 2013) with regards to England playing Ireland and helping develop cricket in Ireland.
The current agreement between the ECB and CI (cricket Ireland) is an ODI fixture every two years. Against Scotland England agree to play every four years. This is a disgrace, and the quote above shows just how powerless CI are.
Irish cricket has possibly its best year ahead of itself, the t20 world cup, two ODI’s against both Sri Lanka and Pakistan, followed by a tour to play an ODi against both Australia and South Africa. Notably however, there is no fixture against England. Scottish cricket has a more barren year ahead. Their website at time of writing (5/3/2016) still lists ‘2015 fixtures’ Next to the world t20 in their banner. Upon a bit of digging (cricinfo) this is because they have no more international fixtures in 2016. England has a duty to develop cricket in its neighbouring countries. The game has room to expand and grow on pre-existing rivalries easily (look at the success of the six nations and the common knowledge that both non-member countries would bite your arm off to beat England).
Before I go on to make a case on how to address this issue further examination of Irelands summer fixtures are required. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are touring England this summer, playing a plethora of games.
England home summer itinerary:
3 Tests v Sri lanka
5 ODi’s v Sri lanka
1 T20i v Sri lanka
4 Tests v Pakistan
47 days of international cricket against full member teams, against Irelands four and Scotlands zero. Furthermore the Irish games act as warm ups for the England fixtures, with all of the irish fixtures being played before the england fixtures in the respective tours. For both touring teams, they will have players playing their first games on tour against the irish, which hardly suggests that either touring team will be at full strength.
A brief confession; I could not find who brokered the deal for ireland to feature in both of the summer tours, so some credit may have to go to the ECB, or not, I do not know. What i do know is that a whole lot more could be done very easily, because although its fantastic that irish cricket are playing 6 ODI’s this year against top quality opponents, the fixture list does nothing to suggest that a similar fixture list will materialise next year and Scotland is left in the cold.
In an era where the ICC are greedy and member inclusive, its is very hard for fringe countries like Ireland to secure regular fixtures, and is almost impossible to attain test status (especially with associate cricket doing well in places like Nepal and Afghanistan, increasing competition should a test spot every eventually materialise). Under current administration, Scotland don’t stand a chance. There are a number of easy solutions, for limited overs cricket at least, and all it requires to work is the ECB to fulfil its promises to both the ICC and CI, and actually help Ireland (and why not help Scotland too, it can only be good for the game).
The most unlikely, yet still very feasible event would be an annual tri-nation ODi tournament between the three countries. This could range from playing each other home and away (nice and traditional, more fair, better for fans) and then the top two play in a final (ideally at Lord’s to give the event a bit more credibility. It could be called ‘The British cup’ or something similar, and would do very well.
The ECB are greedy though, Malahide holds only 10,000, and the Grange 3,000. This would probably lead to all games being played in england. If this is the case though, at least let the scottish ‘home’ games be in the north of england, and perhaps ireland could play in Cardiff, where an anti-english crowd is possible (or any other suitable ground). Another approach would be to play three games in one venue, the remain pool matches in another then the final at Lords. This keeps it simple.
Did I mention the ECB are greedy yet? The biggest obstacle not yet discussed for the tai-nation tournament is ticket sales and ticket prices. An adult ticket at trent bridge for England v Sri lanka (june 21st) will cost £40.00 from square off the wicket (alcohol free zone) or £63.00 from behind the bowlers arm. These games are likely to sell a high number of tickets. The English games may be able to generate prices this high (which they shouldn’t, because £50.00 for a days cricket is outrageous anyway) but is anyone going to pay £40.00 for an Ireland v Scotland rubber in England? Probably not.
Happily there are alternatives. Both Sri Lanka and Pakistans ODi tours last 7 matches, which is the same amount of matches needed in a tri-nation everyone-plays-everyone-twice-then-a-final tournament. there are two touring teams. we have two countries in need of fixtures. Why not just put Ireland into the first tour and Scotland into the second. the ECB stand to make good money because people will want to watch ireland v pakistan and scotland v sri lanka. and a full member team is guaranteed a final spot. Everyone plays too much cricket these days anyway, so it lightens the workload of players from 5 fives to a maximum of three.
T20i’s, the least fashionable international game on tour. out of 47 days of international cricket this summer, england play two days of T20 (well, two half days). there are many ways to incorporate Ireland and Scotland into this, the easiest would be to play Ireland v Scotland on the same day. It worked for the women BBL, why can’t it work for us? England even did it with the women’s game during the 2015 ashes. A better option though would be a yearly tri-nation t20 cup (called ’The british t20 cup’ maybe?) which need only take two days. day one: two games, day two: last remaining pool game then final. Easy.
My favourite idea though, would be much in the same vein as i suggested above by hosting tri-nation tournaments with touring teams. It would always sell tickets, especially in the shortest form (the T20 Blast shows the the public will pay to see t20, and this is higher quality overall) and would both give experience to the players and give the boards a bit more money.
I have ben mulling this over for a few months. I’m 20, a student with no experience in cricket administration (maybe this gives me an advantage in thinking up things like this, which is a ridiculous yet credible notion). It is a sad state of affairs that I can come up with several propositions, all of which are very easy to fit into the current english cricket schedule. The hardest to ‘sell’ to the ECB would be a tai-nation ODi series with the home countries however now the ECB are thinking of scrapping the may test series I can see a natural home for it. The rest of my proposals add a maximum of one day to the cricketing calendar, and some lessen the workload on english players, many of which are playing in a 17 test year (a different, messy issue).
In short; its easy to solve and tragically nothing has been done, and whilst the ECB remain so greedy and wilfully stunt the development of the game (one ODi against Scotland every four years is truly pathetic), nothing will be done.