Ireland defeating the world champions is something we may only hear in rugby. We most certainly will not hear about it in soccer, and it’s not something we often hear in any other of the major sports. This headline however, was a reality this Wednesday as Ireland defeated the reigning world champions, the West Indies, in cricket. Thus, the Irish cricket team earn this week’s title as Unsung Heros of the week, writes Eoin Lyons.
Cricket is far from the most publicised sport in our nation’s eyes. Traditionally, the sport does not have a massive fan base in Ireland, and falls far behind many other sports in the eyes of Irish pundits. Whatever the reasons may be, either the tradition of the sport itself, or the only recent movement to market the sport here, cricket in Ireland has not gained much attention in the Irish media.
In recent years however, Irish cricket has seen a steady increase in popularity and almost more importantly, international success. St. Patrick’s Day in 2007 saw Ireland’s first major win against one of the traditional powerhouses of world cricket, Pakistan. This victory saw Pakistan eliminated from the World Cup, and marked Ireland’s first ever win over a team with test match status, and also their first ever World Cup win.
It was another four years until Ireland earned a majorly shocking victory, this time over England on the 2nd March 2011. Due to our age old rivalries in every sport, this win shot Irish cricket into the media spotlight for a time, and added more respect to the sport already evident from the Pakistan victory four years previously.
This week’s win against the West Indies however, marks Ireland’s biggest win to date due to the standing of the West Indies in international cricket. This win over the reigning world champions has cemented Ireland’s place as the synonymous giant-killers of international cricket. Ed Joyce and Kevin O’ Brien, who has become the veteran of these massive wins over top cricketing sides, combined in fine form to strike the winning runs to clench the victory over the world champions.
The Irish team recovered from the loss of two early wickets to capitalise upon the apparent lack of momentum being gained by the world champion batsmen. The spark failed to ignite for the West Indies, and Ireland remained superior until the very end. An excellent team performance saw our national team shock the cricketing world yet again, in fine form. The timing of the win is also something to be proud of, as it is only a matter of weeks before Ireland open their T20 World Cup campaign against Zimbabwe. Irish coach, Phil Simmons has also commented on the importance of the win, stating that, “to beat the world champions, it’s something that’s going to give us a lot of confidence going into the tournament in March.”
Beating a side such as the West Indies, which is packed with T20 stars, so comfortably, is something that both the team and the managerial staff know they should be proud of. This win sees the materialisation of an apparent surge in popularity and success for Irish cricket, across all aspects of the game. News broke at the beginning of this month that Ireland may be given the chance to play test match cricket, three years ahead of schedule. The structure of the next International Cup, which has not yet been fully decided, may see Ireland being given the chance to play test match cricket in either 2016 0r 2017, much sooner than the predicted date of 2020 laid down by Cricket Ireland. Understandably, this is something the Irish team should be extremely excited about due to their stellar record in the first-class International Cup Competition. The team have won in four of the six stagings of the tournament, losing just two of the thirty-two matches they have played.
Cricket Ireland also must gain some of our respect, as their efforts in recent years to improve the standing of the game in Ireland have reaped many rewards. Also this week, Cricket Ireland won the ‘best cricket promotion and marketing campaign’ award for the one day international test against England in Malahide last year. This game attracted 10,000 supporters, selling out the venue, and marked a great example of the ICC’s development programmes for international cricket.
Without a doubt, Irish cricket is certainly snowballing in popularity, thanks to the successes of the Irish team and management. This week’s win over the West Indies was the materialization of this surge in success for the game, and the Irish team should be very proud of their achievements.
Pundit Arena, Eoin Lyons.