Irish Correspondent: Dublin cricket looks bright amid the mizzle

By Peter Lenaghan
It is summer in Dublin and a light mizzle is falling on the city. A thick blanket of cloud hangs above, trapping warm and muggy air. It is a minor miracle that cricket is played here at all. The players emerge from the rooms, each one wearing a cream, sleeveless sweater.
“I’ve just gotta go back to my bag for the sunscreen,” yells one wag from inside the change rooms. Another joker has his sunglasses on. “It’s glarey, very glarey.” About half an hour is lost before play can begin.
I am introduced to the former player and umpire, and now cricket writer, Stu Daultrey. We take a seat by the boundary rope, looking across the vividly green but tiny field in Dublin’s southern suburbs that is home to the CYM club. The ground is bounded on three sides by two-metre high brick walls painted white. Immediately beyond the boundary fence are laneways separating rows of terrace houses bunched together in sixes and eights.
It has been an extraordinary year for Irish sport. While the country lurched from one financial crisis to another, putting thousands out of work, Ireland’s rugby union team began a campaign of gritty performances that culminated in triumph in the Six Nations competition. It was the first time Ireland had completed the “grand slam” – an unbeaten season – since 1948. The Leinster province team from Ireland’s east then claimed the European Cup a few weeks later, prompting politician and punter alike to fly the region’s blue flag for weeks. In recent days the champion racehorse, Yeats, claimed its fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, and the Irish soccer team is closing in on qualification for the 2010 World Cup, where it could join Australia in South Africa for the tournament. Following the success of the nation’s boxers at the European Union Championships in the last week, one newspaper dubbed Ireland the Cuba of European boxing.
All of these triumphs have come with a degree of expectation. What wasn’t anticipated so widely was that Ireland’s cricketers would do better than the Australians at the World Twenty20. It was an achievement to equal their appearance at the same stage of the 50-over World Cup in 2007. The Irish beat Bangladesh in this month’s tournament in England, before going on to give the runners-up, Sri Lanka, a major scare during the super-eights stage.
Stu Daultrey has watched many of the members of the Irish team graduate from the local grade cricket ranks. “The standard [of Irish club cricket] is better. We’re getting better quality pro’s in, we’re getting better quality coaching and it’s been a 15- to 20-year project — and it’s gradually working.”
The Australian contingent is strong in south Dublin today, with two Sydneysiders competing on opposite sides as professionals; Parramatta’s James Parkinson and Brad Rasool from Western Suburbs. The red-headed Parkinson opens the bowling for YMCA with pace and generates some lift off the carpet. Rasool bats at second drop for the home side, CYM, and drives on the up, through the covers for four. Rasool’s off-side play has Stu uttering the universal praise: “That’s a lovely shot.” The former Ireland captain, Angus Dunlop, crouches in the gully, while another Irish international, Reinhardt Strydom, bowls first change and hits a century after tea. The clubs are a reflection of the national team, which in recent years has included ex-pat Australians and South Africans.
There is undoubted quality on the field, but the atmosphere around the ground is decidedly relaxed. Another former Irish cricket captain playing for YMCA, Alan Lewis – who is also an international rugby union referee – hobbles into position at first slip.
“Is it an injury?” I ask Stu.
“Not exactly – he tells me he’s got a touch of gout.”
The cricketers’ success on the international stage is encouraging some Irish officials and players to urge the International Cricket Council to give the country the chance to take part in Test matches. Ireland’s current position as an associate member of the ICC is forcing players including Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan to try to earn Test caps for England. But Stu reckons Ireland is not ready to join the Test-playing ranks.
“I think you can see that Bangladesh were pushed through too quickly, Zimbabwe had a fine Test team for a short while… I’d hate to see Ireland go the same way as Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. The strength in depth just isn’t there.
“There are requirements by the ICC. To become a Test country you’ve gotta have a certain level of first-class domestic cricket, which we just don’t have, and it’s very difficult to see how we can organise it. People are talking about it, but the Irish are very good at talking about things.”
Another shower of misty rain drifts cross the ground.
“Duckworth-Lewis has been magnificent for Irish cricket,” Stu laughs. “We can get a result with a minimum of cricket played.
“We have the most computer-literate scorers around.”

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