Don Topley: Time to elevate Ireland to full Test status

Don Topley thinks Ireland and captain William Porterfield should be elevated to full Test status

Don Topley thinks Ireland and captain William Porterfield should be elevated to full Test status - Credit: AP

In his latest weekly column, DON TOPLEY calls for Ireland to be elevated to full Test status - and outlines why.

Ireland and Afghanistan are the top associate countries, according to Don Topley

Ireland and Afghanistan are the top associate countries, according to Don Topley - Credit: AP

England have started the summer with two easy one day international wins over Ireland, which have followed on the back on the three easier ODI wins in the Caribbean, which I witnessed.

The results were never in doubt but the forthcoming ODI series with South Africa will be a sterner test and then, there is the Champions Trophy from June 1.

The West Indies in March were average with some of their ‘gun players’ missing for various reasons.

The Irish are now ageing and probably no longer the top Associate country. Afghanistan are currently the strongest.

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Lots of column inches and discussions have been had about the Irish, together, with the Afghanis, being elevated to full Test status. I would applaud the decision.

Over the years other associate sides were top of the tree but had to be patient for promotion, such as the likes of Holland and further back Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

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When I was the international coach of Zimbabwe (1989-92), South Africa’s neighbours had history of upsetting a Test nation in the World Cup arena.

My side defeated Gooch’s England, in Australia 1992, and Duncan Fletcher’s Zimbabwe side previously did the same to Australia, in 1983.

Giving Test status to Zimbabwe in 1993 was controversial at the time, despite them raising their game at key events.

At the time the indigenous Africans didn’t really play the game – they preferred football, so the white fraternity were the backbone of those squads.

Lawyers, chicken farmers, tobacco farmers and entrepreneurs made up my team with the Andy and Grant Flower employed as coaches.

When Zimbabwe were promoted to Test status I was playing for Essex at the Old Southchurch Park, Southend and I remember a vehement discussion between my Essex captain, Graham Gooch and Doug Insole, then, a highly respected cricket administrator with the ECB and ICC.

Insole and Gooch were vocal about not promoting Zimbabwe and I remember Gooch advertising that if he got a century against Zimbabwe he would think of it as a Test century or the same as scoring one against the Aussies.

I argued: “Surely, that is not an adequate reason for not promoting Zimbabwe?”

Now it’s the turn of Ireland. Although they may not be good enough to compete with England and Australia, promoting them would give cricket a huge helping hand in Ireland. Cricket needs this everywhere and anywhere!

Returning to 1982 when Sri Lanka were elevated, they had great depth of cricketers and a First Class system which supported them.

That was in contrast to Zimbabwe who did not have the depth, nor a great first class domestic structure at the time. Bangladesh joined the elite in 2000 and did have the required depth and a decent domestic game in place.

Over the last two years the Irish Cricket Union have developed a First Class domestic game which is today regionalised.

They have spent much money introducing the game into schools, where traditionally Gaelic football, rugby and hurling are king.

Team Ireland have ‘loaned’ players to English county cricket and some have even gone on to represent England: Eoin Morgan, Ed Joyce and Boyd Rankin, for example.

Nine of the Ireland players who participated this week still ply their trade in our domestic cricket so that suggests cricketing credibility.

Losing those players to our own domestic cricket also reduces the quality of theirs. Today, the local players have an opportunity to become more professional and earn part of a salary through cricket.

That’s a start which might help the Irish to keep their players and grow their domestic game which in turn will produce a better competition and therefore players. Clearly, there is ability in the Emerald Isle.

The history books will confirm Australia assisted New Zealand in the Kiwis’ early quest, India assisted Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe benefited on the back of South Africa and now Afghanistan requires help from bigger brother, India. Ireland will be looking towards the ECB and England for their support.

I hope they get elevated.

- What do you think? Let Don know on Twitter at @ToppersSnr

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