Northern Ireland

Cricket Ireland hits out at World Cup decision

Kevin O'Brien
Image caption Ireland's Kevin O'Brien scored a magnificent hundred against England in the recent World Cup

Irish cricket feels like a batsman limbering up to biff a six into the crowd only for the ball to turn sharply and rattle the furniture behind him.

Despite a highly competent and at times stirring performance at the World Cup, the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council, has said that Ireland will not be able to participate at the next tournament in 2015.

Only 10 teams, all full members of the ICC, will be allowed to take part with the qualification places for associate members scrapped.

The 10 include Bangladesh, who performed only marginally better than the Irish in the World Cup, and Zimbabwe, where cricket has been in turmoil because of political instability.

The decision has caused a stir not only in Ireland but right across the cricketing world.

'An absolute disgrace'

Irish captain William Porterfield did not mince his opinion, calling the decision a "joke".

"It's an absolute disgrace," he told the ESPN Cricinfo website.

"We have done everything they asked of us over the last few years in terms of restructuring Irish cricket and I can't come to terms with how they can just shut us out, do away with the qualification period and then try and call this a World Cup."

A pledge to potentially re-introduce associate members to the 2019 tournament has not been judged as much of a consolation.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom, who previously worked for the ICC, called the decision "outrageous" and told the Irish Times he would "fight like hell" to have it overturned.

"I've been involved in the ICC for the best part of nine or 10 years now and I can honestly say that I'm ashamed to be part of that system today," he said.

The feeling of unfairness is not only the preserve of those with a direct interest.

Legendary English all-rounder Andrew Flintoff said on Twitter that the decision was "terrible".

He tweeted: "How are Ireland meant to progress? They've proved they can compete with the other larger cricket nations. ICC wrong again."

Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll also criticised the ICC on the social network, using the hashtag "paddybashers".

He wrote: "Appalling decision to reduce the number of teams in the next cricket world cup after our performance in this year's comp!"

Enthusiasm

The appreciation of Ireland's merits is based more on its performances in the past decade rather than any rich vein of history.

Prior to the World Cup in 2007, Irish cricket's only real boast was a 1969 victory at Sion Mills over the great West Indies side.

It could barely be described as swashbuckling with the West Indies' grand total of 25 achieved amid famous tales of revelry the night before and batsmen walking out to the middle without their bats.

In the intervening years, the Irish XI was normally a mix of enthusiastic amateurs and the occasional crowd-pulling big name like Hansie Cronje or Steve Waugh.

An occasional win in the Benson and Hedges Cup or Natwest Trophy aside, Ireland's cricketers only really came to the fore when they first qualified for the World Cup in 2007.

The St Patrick's Day win over Pakistan created a momentum that continued right through to Kevin O'Brien's briliant century against England last month.

The team no longer relied on overseas players taking Irish citizenship with the majority of the squad born in Ireland and some even good enough to be selected for England.

The threat of only full members being admitted has been around since 2007 when the second dull World Cup in succession caused many to think it had become too long.

Ireland hoped that its recent successes would allow it to remain in the elite club for the time being.

It had bought the formal jacket and tie and looked the part - only to have the pavillion door politely and firmly closed in its face.

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