Unfeasible World Cup schedule a bridge too far for Irish fans
ICC showing scant regard for supporters who might actually wish to follow the Boys in Green at the big event
Irish cricket heroes William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien at a press converence following their victory over England at the Twenty20 World Cup in India. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Tuesday morning’s draw for the World Cup backed up the widely held opinion that the International Cricket Council couldn’t give two hoots about the supporters wishing to travel to watch their teams at the marquee event in world one-day cricket. Well at least those that haven’t won the Euromillions jackpot in recent years.
With Ireland qualifying almost 20 months ahead of the event after their recent win and tie against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, supporters were already making plans for a trip to Australia and New Zealand for the event in February and March 2015.
Give up the booze, stub out the fags, sell the family silver: whatever it took, they would be making the trip to the Southern Hemisphere to cheer on the boys in green.
And of course there are those living in Australia and New Zealand, with the 2011 Australian census showing that just over 2 million people claimed Irish ancestry, up 7.5 per cent from five years previously, while 26,000 visas were granted to Irish nationals in the year up to last June.
So after the Caribbean in 2007 and India and Bangladesh in 2011, here was a World Cup that could see genuinely large amount of Irish supporters flood the ranks of the hard-core Blarney Army that have played their part in the experiences in the two previous 50-over competitions.
It’s been one of the joys of covering those events to meet both familiar faces and those with little connection to domestic cricket, but who love the idea of cheering on Ireland in whatever sporting event they play on the world stage.
To witness their surprise at the level of interaction between Irish players and supporters certainly adds to the experience in a sporting world where the barriers between performers and audience often seem to be getting higher.
So in a bid to try and price flights for the pool matches, The Irish Times rang one of the two airlines that serve Australia through the UAE after a website search continued to return an ‘error’ message.
A very helpful assistant put in the itinerary based on 2014 dates, but the system failed to price it either. No surprise really, as computer chips work off logic, so a flight plan that had the look of a bad hijack movie was certainly going to cause it problems. And anyone hoping to take in a match or two as part of a round-the- world trip will have problems as those tickets usually forbid doubling back on your route.
Of course Irish supporters will find their way to the matches, they always do, but every conceivable barrier has been put in their way.
It’s a long way from what soccer and rugby supporters get at their respective World Cups, with a chance usually to set up a base somewhere between two host cities.
Judging on Ireland’s schedule of a pool game each on the North and South Islands in New Zealand, three on mainland Australia and one in Hobart, a raft off the Barrier Reef might be the best bet.
Of course television is king when it comes to global sports tournaments, and nowhere more so than in cricket, with the ICC set to sit down with the broadcasters and draw up a new deal for after the 2015 World Cup.
For now, the sight of pool matches being played out in front of sparse crowds and little atmosphere is all right by the powers-that-be, while supporters spend their hard-earned cash trying their best to get behind their teams. It’s just not cricket really.
The 2015 senior event may come a little too early for Ireland’s Under-19 side, but they have their own World Cup target over the next seven days as they chase the one qualification place on offer from the six teams gathered in the Netherlands for the European Under-19 Championships.
Tyrone Kane leads a 14-strong squad and the Merrion all-rounder is already well on the senior team radar after strong performances at both club and interprovincial level. With opening bowlers always a commodity in demand, the performances of 17-year-old Mark Adair and 19-year-old Peter Chase will also be followed closely by the senior selectors.
Along with Kane and Chase, the other squad members remaining from last year’s World Cup in Australia are Scott Campbell, Alistair Shields, Ben Wylie.
Ireland finished third when hosting a global qualifier in 2011, a tournament won by Scotland, who will again provide the toughest challenge, along with the Dutch, who Ireland face in their opener in Rotterdam today.