Ireland have served notice for higher honours

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Old 21-Mar-2011
Ireland have served notice for higher honours

Whoever wins the World Cup over the next fortnight, the one team that has won the hearts of cricket lovers of the subcontinent is Ireland.

They go back with their heads held high and having served notice that they are ready for higher honours.

Whether they get their desire of being a Test country fulfilled remains to be seen, but they certainly haven't harmed their chances with their performances in this year's World Cup.

Even in the 2007 edition they were impressive and have done even better in this World Cup, chasing successfully over 300 runs twice, a feat not easily achieved in international cricket.

Many of their players play in county cricket so they get a fair amount of matches to play which is not what other Associates get.

However, they also have the problem of some of their better players getting impatient about wanting to play Test cricket and who then opt to play for England as we have seen already.

This is something that the ICC needs to look at very carefully, because if the aim is to help Associates get better, they must not be allowed to lose quality players to England. The qualification rules for Test countries is different from those of Associate countries. So if a player has played in the A' team of a Test country and wants to play for another country, he has to wait for a four-year period only then can he qualify for the other country.

That is a reasonable period of waiting but it's not the same for Irish or Scottish players who wish to play for England. They can do so virtually in the same season and that is tempting for those from these Associates who wish to try their skills at the highest level.

It is here that the ICC has to take a stand and decide whether a player who has a different passport and has sung another country's anthem can straightaway play for another neighbouring country.

Waiting period

It's not just the Irish and Scots who have the advantage of playing for England but some other Test nations too whose players play for Associate countries by spending just 100 days there. Once they do that, they should not be allowed to play for a Test country straightaway and should spend four years qualifying as others need to.

A couple of years ago, we had the sight of a player who was quite clearly domiciled in a Test country and who was playing in that country's domestic competition who played for an Associate country by qualifying either on his birth being in the Associate country and having done that in an ICC tournament he played for the Test country where he has settled down within a matter of months.

How he could do that in the same year remains a mystery but it happened and it quite clearly showed that playing for the Associate was just an opportunistic deal and not where he actually wanted to help the Associate countries develop talent. England, of course, has the best of both worlds. Because it is part of the United Kingdom, the Scots, Welsh and Irish can play for England without qualifying at all. They could well have passports of those countries, stand at attention to their national anthems yet play for England in a jiffy, if selected.

If that is the case then realistically there should not be these countries playing as Associates isn't it?

What if tomorrow the subcontinent decides that any of its players can automatically play for other Saarc countries?

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