Ireland must repay Pakistan when the time is right

Willing tourists will be back in Ireland next week for two one-day games

Ireland bowler Tim Murtagh has beeen in outstanding form for Middlesex this season. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Ireland bowler Tim Murtagh has beeen in outstanding form for Middlesex this season. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Fri, May 17, 2013, 11:18

Ireland’s home international programme gets underway next week with the two-match RSA Series against Pakistan at Castle Avenue, games that will hopefully show off the rude health of Phil Simmons’s senior side.

Between the success of the start of the Inter-Provincial series to the bright starts made to the season of many of the County-based players, Ireland will go into the games against the Champions Trophy-bound Pakistan with real ambitions of claiming a first home victory over a Test-playing nation in a One-Day International.

Before Ed Joyce’s breakthrough with Middlesex, the County Championship seemed far out of reach of Irish players, in stark contrast to the present day where Ireland internationals play key roles at the top sides.

Joyce is captaining Sussex this season, while Ireland skipper William Porterfield is part of the Warwickshire side that won the title last summer. Boyd Rankin was also part of that side and would be in action at Clontarf next week if he hadn’t made up his mind to retire from international cricket with Ireland in a bid to further his chances of playing for England.

Tim Murtagh is likely to take over from Rankin with the new ball on the back of brilliant form that sees him lead the Division One wicket-taking stats with 28, including eight yesterday as Middlesex enforced the follow-on against Somerset at Taunton.

Pakistan may not have former Ireland professional Shahid Afridi amongst their ranks after the mercurial all-rounder was left out of their Champions Trophy squad, but tickets sales for the games on Thursday and Sunday have been very healthy according to Cricket Ireland, with the sold out signs being prepared for one if not both games.

It’s the second time in three years that Pakistan have come to Ireland, following their 2-0 series win at Stormont in 2011, giving vital exposure on home soil for Irish players and a chance to raise funds through gate receipts – with the Irish Pakistani community also making their voices heard on the boundary.

Of course Pakistan’s willingness to play here can in some ways be put down to the fact that they have been forced to become cricketing nomads due to the ICC ban on touring teams visiting the country since the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore back in 2009 that led to the deaths of six policemen and two civilians.

There has been no indication from the ICC that the travel ban will be lifted, although the recent election that saw back to back democratically elected governments returned to power for the only time since independence would certainly hint at a degree of political stability in the country.

When the touring ban is lifted, and if some of the Test-playing nations decline invites, Cricket Ireland should be first with their hands up in seeking an invite to repay Pakistan for their efforts in helping Irish cricket in recent years.

The death on Monday of Munster Cricket Union president Leo Durity led to many tributes to a man who brought grace both to his batting and later as a highly respected administrator.

A stalwart of Munster sides at interprovincial level, the Trinidadian-born opening bat also played against a touring Pakistan International Airways team packed full of internationals at the Mardyke in 1969, making 18 and 27.

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