An historic day for cricket as it fights for sporting relevance

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

In sporting terms, cricket remains very much a poor relation on this island, north and south.

Even within the Protestant/unionist community, where it should be more popular considering the sport’s historic links to Britain, cricket lags well behind football, rugby and golf in the local affections.

South of the border, where the sport is now played more widely by both sections of the community, it is still nowhere near the popularity of rugby, football or indeed Gaelic games.

The hope is that Thursday’s announcement of Test match status for Ireland, meaning the Irish team (made up of players from north and south of the border) can now play in the most historic and demanding form of the sport, will lead to a sea change.

The decision is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gives young cricketers growing up the possibility of playing in the premier form of the game with Ireland, as opposed to England, a route taken in recent years by a number of Irishmen, including Eoin Morgan, the present England one-day captain, and Ed Joyce.

Secondly, with the extra money flooding into Irish cricket from the sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket’s future here should be financially secure for years to come.

There is the promise of more lucrative contracts for players, meaning that youngsters with dual sporting talents could realistically opt for cricket as a chosen professional career.

However, there are some red flashing lights. Ireland’s senior men’s team has been struggling to win matches of late, with a golden generation of players largely past their best years.

At club level, while the game in Dublin has flourished over the last decade, with participation levels on the up, in Northern Ireland times have been tougher. Several teams have pulled up stumps and crowds, never huge, are down. The pot of gold from the ICC needs to be put to good use.