Now Ire­land has Test sta­tus you do not need to move abroad as Eoin did, claims cap­tain Bal­birnie

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tim Wigmore

Ire­land cap­tain Andy Bal­birnie be­lieves that the land­scape of Ir­ish cricket has changed since Eoin Mor­gan made the switch to play for Eng­land 11 years ago.

“Now that we have Test sta­tus, I’d like to think that you don’t need to go over, as such, as you had to in that age,” Bal­birnie said. “With cen­tral con­tracts now, you can make a liv­ing play­ing cricket in Ire­land. It’s ob­vi­ously not as much as you could get if you cap­tain Eng­land, but you’ve got to be a unique player to cap­tain Eng­land, and you’ve got to be a very, very spe­cial player to win a World Cup with Eng­land. I’d like to think that if you’re born in Ire­land and you’re raised through the Ir­ish cricket sys­tem, then we won’t let that slip.”

Mor­gan, 33, has been a big in­flu­ence on the ca­reer of Bal­birnie, 29. They both grew up in Dublin and later played to­gether for Mid­dle­sex.

Bal­birnie said: “I grew up watch­ing him play Ir­ish cricket, I was al­ways a bit in awe of him and how good he was. He’s some­one that I wanted to be like when I was 10 or 11. He ob­vi­ously moved over here for the right rea­sons, and he’s been an in­cred­i­ble suc­cess.

“You look at what he’s achieved – not just for English cricket, but for Ir­ish cricket as well. To lead Eng­land to the World Cup – a lot of Ir­ish peo­ple might not un­der­stand that, but from our point of view he’s def­i­nitely an im­pres­sive guy, al­beit you’d want him to play for Ire­land.”

Bal­birnie was long con­sid­ered in Ire­land to be one of the most promis­ing bat­ting tal­ents of his gen­er­a­tion. His clas­si­cal tech­nique earned a con­tract with MCC Young Crick­eters and then Mid­dle­sex. But while

Bal­birnie made his in­ter­na­tional de­but in 2010 and im­pressed in the 2015 World Cup, he took un­til 2017 to be­come an au­to­matic se­lec­tion for the one-day in­ter­na­tional side.

He has since blos­somed into Ire­land’s se­nior bats­man, along­side Paul Stir­ling. Bat­ting at No3, Bal­birnie is av­er­ag­ing 41 in one-day in­ter­na­tion­als since the start of 2018, hit­ting all five of his ODI cen­turies in this time, in­clud­ing 135 against West Indies and 145 not out against Afghanista­n’s for­mi­da­ble spin at­tack last year.

“At the start of my ca­reer I was al­ways a bit ten­ta­tive,” he said. “I was ap­pre­hen­sive about the No 3 role, didn’t re­ally like it. And now I ab­so­lutely love it.”

Bal­birnie’s fine form and cricket acu­men led to his el­e­va­tion to the cap­taincy last year, when Wil­liam Porter­field stepped down. Porter­field had held the post for 11 years, dur­ing which time Ire­land grad­u­ated from a team with no pro­fes­sional con­tracts to a Test na­tion.

“I’d like to think that I’ve in­flu­enced the younger gen­er­a­tion to ex­press them­selves,” Bal­birnie said. “The young group that we have now have showed that fear­less at­ti­tude when it comes to these games.”

Ag­gres­sive bats­man Gareth De­lany – who hit four suc­ces­sive sixes in a T20 against West Indies in Jan­uary – and 20-year-old bats­man Harry Tec­tor, who should make his ODI de­but against Eng­land, are re­garded as par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing. But while Ire­land have Test sta­tus, fi­nances – Ire­land re­ceive un­der half of what Zim­babwe re­ceive and un­der one-third of what most full-mem­ber na­tions get from the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil – means that most these matches will be in white-ball cricket. Ire­land’s in­au­gu­ral Test against Pak­istan in 2018 cost the board a net £600,000. Bal­birnie also knows that Ire­land’s progress over his ten­ure will largely be de­ter­mined by how they per­form in the one­day World Cup com­pe­ti­tions. “That 2023 World Cup is a huge car­rot – by how­ever means we qual­ify, that is some­thing that I want to say that we man­aged to achieve,” he said. “If we win the World Cup in 2023, that can be the cricket equiv­a­lent of Le­ices­ter City.”

Guid­ing light: Eoin Mor­gan re­mains an in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure in his na­tive Ire­land

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.