Ireland’s display against India shows why they are ready for big league
By H Natarajan
The ICC effected a subtle change in its “beyond-the-2.5 meter rule” with regard to lbw referrals under the UDRS system. As per the amendment, if replays indicate that the ball would travel in excess of 2.5 metres from the point of impact, the batsman can still be given out if Hawk-Eye shows the ball striking any part of the middle stump at a comfortable height.
And it’s because of the rule change by the ICC, bang in the middle of the World Cup, that saw umpire Rod Tucker reverse his earlier decision and adjudge Ireland's Alex Cusack lbw toYuvraj Singh. The ICC took the decision to bring about this dramatic change following a similar incident in the India-England game where Ian Bell was controversially declared not out.
Commenting in the group Cricket Fans on Facebook, Srinivasan Narayanan hit the nail on the head: “If you can change a rule midway, then why not grant Ireland full status now?”
Srini’s is not a voice in the wilderness. As Ireland soldier on impressively in the 2011 World Cup, they are winning the respect and admiration of opponents, critics, the cricketing cognoscenti around the world and the masses.
Not since Sri Lanka’s compelling and consistent on-field performances, an associate member nation has made such forceful claims for full ICC membership as Ireland. In fact, cricket has undergone a sea change in the near three decades since Sri Lanka got Test status.
It’s now a high-pressure game with the demands on the players scaling stratospheric levels in keeping with the high stakes. It’s in this dramatically different scenario, Ireland has measured up to the best in the business.
It’s all quiet on the Western Front after the din of the day-night drama at Bengaluru. The scoreboard says, India beat Ireland by five wickets. Fairly convincing, it may seem. But what cold statistics don’t reveal to those who had not followed the match closely is how things could have been vastly different with just the loss of one more Indian wicket at a critical juncture.
India were fortunate that one of the coolest heads in the game, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, walked in with India’s score reading an uneasy 100 for the loss of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. Another 108 runs were needed for victory and there was just Yusuf Pathan in the hut.
Had Dhoni got out quickly at this point, the pressure on Pathan would have been enormous as the last of the recognized batsman. Pathan would not have been able to throw his bat as freely as he did. Yes, one wicket was all that Ireland needed at this stage which could have plunged a nation of billion-plus people into a huge disappointment. And another victory would have meant Ireland’s claims for higher recognition was almost guaranteed, as it would have followed that epic, back-from-the-dead victory over England at the same venue.
The Indian captain had ensured that victory was well within India’s grasp when he left with the score at 167. In a manner of speaking, Dhoni ‘took’ the Batting Powerplay by getting out, as the man to follow was that “Dexterous Destroyer”, Yusuf Pathan. And “Air Marshall” Pathan lit the night skies with the kind of pyrotechnics that only he can. In the end, few realized how perilously close India came to losing against Ireland.
There are three departments in the game of cricket: Batting, Bowling and Fielding. Ireland were superior to India in two of the three - and yet lost the game. The Irish bowlers very disciplined, bowling to the field and making the nuclear-powered Indian batting earn their runs. The Ireland fielding was a marvel – I dare say one of the best fielding sides in the world, if not the best. Their commitment and professionalism was top class. Despite the absence of a good foundation back home, their batsmen still showed guts, gumption and character to stand up to international class bowlers. Yesterday, it was the turn of skipper William Poterfield to put his hand up.
The chasm is huge between most domestic cricket and the game at international level. Indian cricket, for example, is replete with ‘kings’ in first class cricket forced to look like paupers at the international level. What the ICC needs to do is to help Ireland give greater and more meaningful exposure to the part-time cricketers of Ireland - with the co-operation of full-member nations - before easing them into Test cricket in a year or two.
What’s most admirable about Ireland is that the talent that you see in their ranks is home bred and not a motley collection of expats. And for a team that did not generate pre-tournament expectations from the world, they had sizable support from their own countrymen in the stands. Obviously, they knew their players better than the rest of the world were willing to believe.
What Ireland needs is a sense of fairplay and justice from the ICC. The ICC has been criticized for its protectionism attitude towards the full member nations – an indication of that is reflected in the World Cup format, which is favoured to ensure the safe passage of the fancied teams into the next stage. Encouragement, if any, needs to be given to the minnows. But then the ICC decisions are governed with one eye on sponsorship moolah. But Ireland has proved emphatically that minnows can be a draw as well. They need the blessings of the ICC to take their game to the next level.
A Shah Rukh Khan would still have been doing insignificant TV soaps had his talented not been noticed and pitchforked into celluloid. A Sonu Nigam would still have been singing in small, social gatherings than be one of the nation’s prized singers had he not been given due recognition at the right time. Ireland are like SRK and Sonu in their struggling days. If they need to join the big league, the patronage of the ICC is vital.
(H Natarajan is the Executive Editor of cricketcountry.com)