The big paceman, who only recently announced his retirement from both international and inter-provincial cricket, has his gaze fixed on a coaching role and hopes to pass on his vast knowledge to the next generation of Irish cricketers.
And with his former Ireland team-mate Gary Wilson now North West Warriors coach, the 36-year-old revealed he was asked to stay on and join the Warriors coaching set-up, something he’s passionate about.
Rankin, who will continue to play club cricket with Lisburn in the NCU, said he believes that in years to come more and more Irish internationals coming towards the end of their careers, players such as fellow north west man, William Porterfield, will want to stay in the game.
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“Willow (Gary Wilson) has asked me to get involved with the coaching stuff and I’m really looking forward to hopefully doing more in that regard,” insisted Rankin.
“I have done my coaching badges. I’m now a level three coach so I would like to get more involved with that end of the game and also, at the same time, I’m doing emerging stuff on a Wednesday evening.
“I’m trying to get more and more involved with coaching and do a bit at Lisburn as well on Fridays. It’s something that I’m quite passionate about, more so on the bowling side of things because I want to try and pass on as much knowledge as I can and try to help, especially the younger bowlers who are coming through.
“I’m hoping to make it more of a regular occurrence but we’ll wait and see.
“Stuart Barnes is Ireland’s head bowling coach at the minute and that’s something I would like to set my sights on in terms of something further down the line, after all there’s no reason why it can’t be like an Irish based coach.
“In the past it has always been a foreign coach coming in but now, with the amount of experience the likes of myself, Gary and William (Porterfield), these types of players have, we have experienced men coming to the back end of their career and looking at coaching now.
“I feel it’s really important to keep that type of player involved because when you look at what other countries are doing, like the ECB for example, they are now getting a lot of their past players involved. A lot of coaches in county cricket are now getting involved with the ECB and I think that’s a good thing.
“It gives the younger people coming through a big hand as well. They are working with those coaches day in and day out and that helps those players overall, just seeing coaches who have not only played for Ireland, but are locally based. That helps young players relate to them in terms of the coaching as well.”
The Bready native is the only man in world cricket to have played in all three formats of the game - Test, One Day Internationals and T20 cricket, for two countries representing Ireland and England in what has been a stellar career.
Rankin played 153 matches across the formats for Ireland over two stints separated by three years playing for England during which he played one Test, against Australia in 2014. He also enjoyed a superb county career spanning more than 15 years with both Derbyshire and Warwickshire.
In fact, the Derry man won everything in the county game with Warwickshire while playing in an Ashes series will live long in the memory
“To have had such a long career in county cricket, especially my 11-year stint with Warwickshire where we won the County Championship, the 50-over competition twice and the T20 Blast in 2014, was very special and something I am very grateful for,” adds Rankin.
“Looking back, I have to pinch myself at times because it probably still hasn’t sunk in it yet. Playing a long career in county cricket, obviously the Irish stuff and that little bit of England in terms of the Ashes, I have a lot of great memories from playing cricket and have been involved in a lot of great games over the years.
“I’m just incredibly thankful to have had that opportunity to play all those games and I have made lots of friends along the way.
“It’s not something I probably set out to do, it was just how it worked out. I suppose had Ireland have had Test Match status earlier then I probably wouldn’t have got to do what I did in terms of playing for England but at the time I felt it was the right decision for me.
“I always wanted to try and play at the highest level so the natural thing to do was to try and play Test cricket for England. Thankfully I did that, albeit just one test, but it was a great experience to be involved in that set-up. I learned a lot and improved a hell of a lot as a player while I was playing county cricket and getting all the support from the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) because there were lots of training and fitness camps and everything else which I feel helped me throughout my career.”
Having bowled to some of the world’s greatest batsmen, players like West Indies’ Chris Gayle, England’s Kevin Pietersen, India’s MS Dhoni and Australia’s Steve Smith, it was actually former England skipper and opening batsman, Marcus Trescothick, who Rankin liked facing least of all while in the bowling depart Rankin wasn’t happy when staring down either Afghanistan bowler Rashid Khan or Australia’s Mitchell Johnson.
“Looking at county cricket, probably someone like Marcus Trescothick. He was just a nightmare to bowl to in county cricket. Obviously he’s very well known and he’s a serious player so at county cricket level, he was a nightmare.
“Internationally we are obviously playing against a lot of high quality players like Chris Gayle. He’s just an absolute nightmare to bowl at and even a few of the Afghanistan players who probably aren’t big names but are very clean strikers of the ball.
“To be honest there wasn’t any one match that stands out because in every match you play in at that level, there’s going to be a serious player in their side. It’s difficult to pin-point one or two players but those players that I mentioned, those players who have the natural ability to just hit a clean-ball, they are really difficult to bowl to.
“As for difficult bowlers, someone like Rashid Khan was quite difficult to pick and he’s still doing it well now. That sort of shows me because even top order batsmen find it difficult to play him.
“Obviously facing Mitchell Johnson in that Ashes test. He’s someone who I wouldn’t want to be facing day in and day out. He was pretty quick and he certainly keeps you on your toes.
“But, to be honest, the more you face that type of bowling the more ‘comfortable’ you become with it which helps when you come back to play club cricket which is not as quick. It makes it that bit easier as you do not have to strap-on a chest guard and an arm guard and it makes batting a bit more enjoyable.”
Now working back on the family farm in Bready for most of the week, Rankin travels to the Belfast every Thursday to see his girlfriend, Anna, and to play for Lisburn at weekends. He’s enjoying the change of pace but concedes that finishing his playing career at his home club in Magheramason is something he badly wants to do.
“Long term, yeah, I would obviously love to come back to play for Bready,” he explains. “But at the minute I’m based in Belfast three or four days a week and I’m up there every weekend from say a Thursday evening through to a Sunday evening. Then I’m back on the farm during the week. Everything is working well for me at the minute although I have had to find some time to spend with the missus (laughs) but it works out quite well for me.
“I’m playing with my brother, Robert. He has played for Lisburn for a long time and they have a really good bunch of lads so I’m really enjoying it. We’ll see what happens over the next few years but ideally I would love to come back and play with Bready again at some point. I’m still eager to keep going. There’s a lot less pressure now just playing club cricket and being able to focus on putting more time into work and coaching.
“Yes, obviously I still want to perform for Lisburn, but it’s just less stress on the body and I can take it a bit easier because with the Warriors you are maybe training 2/3 days during the week which I was struggling to do because I was also working on the farm and doing heavy manual labour. Coming to bowl I was still feeling that work and the next morning getting out of bed was a struggle so from a body point of view, retiring from international and inter-provincial cricket will mean that hopefully I can still play some sort of cricket for at least the next few years.”