Ireland’s Test debut against Pakistan marked by bittersweet feelings of missed opportunities

Ireland's Niall O'Brien (L) and Stuart Thompson celebrate after dismissing Pakistan's Faheem Ashraf (R). (REUTERS)
Updated 13 May 2018

Ireland’s Test debut against Pakistan marked by bittersweet feelings of missed opportunities

  • Ireland make Test debut after disappointment of missing out on Cricket World Cup in 2019
  • As Sunday’s third day struggles showed, it will take Ireland time to adjust to the unique rhythms of Test cricket

LONDON: Several of the Irish heroes of Sabina Park in 2007 never made it to Malahide, not as players anyway.
Dave Langford-Smith, the New South Welshman who bowled the first ball for Ireland in a World Cup game, played his last international less than 12 months later. Andre Botha, the South African whose metronomic seam bowling was instrumental in the St. Patrick’s Day defeat of Pakistan, stretched his career as far as the 2011 World Cup.
Jeremy Bray, another from New South Wales whose century helped clinch that vital first World Cup point against Zimbabwe, bowed out in 2009, while Trent Johnston, inspirational captain, fabric salesman and chicken dancer supreme in 2007, last wore the Irish cap in the final of the Intercontinental Cup in December 2013.
Of that heroic side that made it to the Super Eights at the expense of Pakistan and Zimbabwe, only the O’Brien brothers, big Boyd Rankin and William Porterfield, now captain, are still playing. Eoin Morgan is too, only he wears English colors these days.
Spare a thought too for Ed Joyce, so prominent in Ireland’s qualification for that 2007 World Cup. Driven by the desire to play Test cricket, Joyce switched allegiance to England in 2006 and was part of their World Cup squad in 2007. In the game between the two sides in Guyana, he shouldered arms to a Rankin delivery that flattened his off stump.
As visions of a Test cap with England disappeared, Joyce went back to his roots. Now nearly 40, he finally saw his dream realized at Malahide this weekend. But nearly a decade after his prime, he lasted all of four balls in the first innings.
In sport, timing is everything, and for Ireland, the timing of this inaugural Test is especially bittersweet, coming two months after they missed out on qualifying for a fourth consecutive World Cup. That ‘failure’ came with an asterisk. After having 16 teams in 2007, and 14 apiece in 2011 and 2015, cricket has gone back to the Stone Age with a ten-team World Cup for 2019.
Long before Afghanistan captured hearts with their big hitting, pace bowling and skilful wrist spin, Ireland were flying the flag for the Associate sides. But with opportunities so scarce against strong opposition, the promise of 2007 has not been fully realized. Cricket boards around the world share the blame for that. It beggars belief that teams prefer to play weakened, second-rate county sides to warm up for Test series in England, instead of crossing the Irish Sea to play a full-strength national side in similar conditions.
Having set the standard for the so-called lesser nations in white-ball cricket a decade ago, the Irish have seen others eclipse them as their core group of players have grown old together. Rankin, like Joyce, tried his luck with England, playing the final Test in the Ashes whitewash of 2013-14. He’s now nearly 34. Tim Murtagh, who shared the new ball, turns 37 soon. Of the XI at Malahide, only Tyrone Kane is under 25. Seven are over 32. This is not a team with its best years ahead of it.
As Sunday’s third day struggles showed, it will take Ireland time to adjust to the unique rhythms of Test cricket, against bowlers and batsmen a level above those they played in the Intercontinental Cup. And the suspicion persists that without the patronage of one of the powerful cricket boards – Afghanistan seem to have that from India now – they will merely tread water like Bangladesh did for a decade.
What Ireland do have, even in the inclement weather at Malahide, is incredible support. That is one thing that has not changed since that halcyon summer of 2007.
“It was like there were 12 or 13 players out there,” said Johnston after that opening World Cup game against Zimbabwe. “It felt like there were 20,000 of them inside. The Irish people are quite passionate, and it was high on our agenda to win for them. There were 2,000 people in and I reckon about 1,900 of them were Irish.”
As many as 5,000 turned up for Saturday’s play, and their encouragement will be most needed in the months and years ahead. But more than anything, Ireland needs some of the kids watching from the stands to fill the voids soon to be left by the generation that put Irish cricket on the map.


Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

Updated 2 min 23 sec ago

Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

  • The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime,
  • Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay

TOKYO: The coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost at least an extra $2.4 billion, organizers said Friday, with the unprecedented postponement and a raft of pandemic health measures ballooning an already outsized budget.
The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime, insisting the massive event can go ahead next year even if the pandemic is not under control.
But more spending, on top of the previous budget of about $13 billion, could further harden public opinion in Japan, where polls this year showed a majority of people think the Games should be postponed again or canceled together.
“Whether it’s seen as too much or that we have done well to contain the costs, I think it depends on how you look at it,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters.
“We have done all we can to earn the public’s understanding,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay, with another $900 million in spending on coronavirus countermeasures.
The dollar figures are calculated at an exchange rate of 107 yen, and the total is around $2.56 billion at today’s rate. The costs look set to rise further, with Tokyo 2020 saying it would also release an additional $250 million in “contingency” funds.

The new spending swells a budget that was set last year at around $13 billion, and will add to disquiet about the cost of the Games after an audit report last year argued the national government was spending significantly more than originally planned.
The extra costs will be split between Tokyo, the organizing committee and the national government. The International Olympic Committee will not be chipping in, but has agreed to waive its sponsor royalty fee for the first time, organizers said.
The unprecedented decision to delay the Games has thrown up a plethora of extra costs, from rebooking venues and transport to retaining the huge organizing committee staff.
And with organizers committed to hosting the Games even if the pandemic remains a threat, extensive safety measures will be needed.
Tokyo 2020 this week released a 54-page plan they said would make it possible to hold the Games, including restrictions on athletes touching and fans cheering, and an infection control center in the Olympic Village.
Organizers have tried to scale back elements of the Games, offering fewer free tickets, scrapping athlete welcome ceremonies and making savings on mascots, banners and meals, but so far they have cut just $280 million in spending.
And on Thursday, they said 18 percent of Olympic tickets sold in Japan will be refunded, with domestic fans demanding their money back on about 810,000 of the 4.45 million tickets sold in the country.


Organizers hope to now resell those tickets, and demand for seats at the Games was high before the pandemic.
But enthusiasm has since waned, with a poll in July revealing that just one in four people wanted to see the event held in 2021, and most backing either further delay or cancelation.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said the spending plan was carefully considered and he hoped people would accept it.
“If you have a drink, you could say your glass is half-full, or half empty. It depends on how you look at it,” he told reporters.
“There’s a rationale behind this plan. I hope the Japanese people will understand it.”
Tokyo 2020’s final price tag has been hotly disputed, with an audit report last year estimating the national government spent nearly 10 times its original budget between 2013-2018.
Organizers countered that the estimate included items not directly related to the Games.