April 14, 2021, 7:55

Cricket Ireland facing several off-field challenges ahead of first Test match

Cricket Ireland facing several off-field challenges ahead of first Test match

In six months’ time Ireland will become the 11th nation to play Test cricket, a long-coveted prize that brings with it administrative and financial challenges not seen since rugby union turned professional.

On May 11 next year at around 11am – weather permitting of course – Pakistan will be on hand to welcome the format’s first new arrival since Bangladesh were invited to the top table in November 2000.

It will be a cause for great celebration for fans and players on the island and the culmination of years of diligent work – with behind-the-scenes politicking and unimpeachable on-field progress playing an equal part over the years.

But before that happens, a Stakhanovite workload awaits those at the helm.

Warren Deutrom is the chief executive of Cricket Ireland and a major factor in the advancement of a cause which has gone from fanciful to optimistic to achievable and finally inevitable in a decade.

As well as leading the organisation, Deutrom is effectively HR manager, in-house lawyer and head of corporate affairs. He estimates performance director Richard Holdsworth’s role overlaps with the work of five people at the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Warren Deutrom

“We are going through a huge, huge process of transitioning from associates to full membership. It’s going to be a finger in the air exercise to some extent… we have an extraordinary dearth of people,” Deutrom told Press Association Sport.

“To satisfy all the requirements we would have next year – working on a proper interprovincial structure, more support for our women’s teams and grassroots, coach development, investment in facilities, identifying and commercialising our fixtures for the next four to five years, hosting a Test match – we would need €14-15m.

“We’re likely to turn over around 8million and the exchange rate of Dollars to Euros means we’re getting less from our ICC distribution.

“We might be facing a unique set of challenges,” he said. “The only thing I am aware of on this scale in Ireland would be the transition from amateur to professional in rugby union.

“I suspect that was comparable to what we’re doing but rugby was already ingrained in our national psyche, it was an established mainstream sport in the way cricket is only aspiring to be.”

Also on the list of priorities is a new headquarters.

“We haven’t got any more room…we’ve already knocked through into next door and you can’t keep knocking holes in walls forever,” he added.

Deutrom is also pragmatic enough to know cricket will not be knocking holes in the established structure of Irish sport anytime soon. Among team pursuits rugby, football and Gaelic sports are untouchable, with horse-racing and golf also boasting a large, devoted following.

The goal is to join them.

“What are the measure to become mainstream? I’ve talked about cultural ubiquity: our own tab on the news sites, on TV regularly, pundits on the radio,” he said.

“There’s not many sports that can attract 10,000 people to a game as we can and we’re already the country’s second biggest sport in terms of social media following. That could be damn lies and statistics but it seems a relatively solid measure, given we’ve never been certain of our fixture list before.”

Many fans will be desperate to know when England will face their neighbours in Test cricket. It was once expected they would be the side to welcome the boys in green to life in whites, but Deutrom is applying light-touch diplomacy on that score.

“It would be crazy to put a public megaphone to their ear and say ‘it’s outrageous they’re not playing us’,” he said.

“We know their schedule is among the busiest in world cricket but there is a human side to everything and is there a natural kinship between England and Ireland? Yes. I think there is a real willingness to get it done but that doesn’t lessen the challenge of a very busy calendar.”

For now though, all eyes are on Pakistan in May.

“We have a mountain to climb, and there will be bumps in the road, but let’s not lose sight of what has been achieved by Irish cricket.”

Source: breakingnews.ie

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