Journo Talk 4: Ireland ‘must test ourselves against the best’

By Sam Blackledge

 JBT FOODTECH

This should be one of the most exciting periods in Irish cricket history.

The country is seemingly on the cusp of entering the Test arena, and last month its domestic game was awarded full first-class and List A status by the ICC.

But Ian Callender, cricket correspondent at the Belfast Telegraph, is not getting carried away.

The 57-year-old, once described as “the doyen of Irish cricket journalists”, started his career at the now defunct Carrickfergus Advertiser in 1980.

Ireland’s recent nine-wicket defeat to Australia – their 12th loss in 15 matches – was the 509th international Ian has reported on.

It’s little wonder he is in sceptical mood, and he pulls no punches when asked about the reason for this alarming dip in form.

“The big change has been since (former coach) Phil Simmons left and John Bracewell has come in,” Ian says.

“I am sure he is under a bit of pressure to hold on to his job. We just have not got the results.

“It’s gone downhill ever since he came on board and I don’t think it’s a coincidence unfortunately.

“The fielding has obviously suffered, there is not as much work being done on that.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it to tell you the truth. I haven’t really been able to work it out. The batting has not been able to get partnerships going, we rely too much on Ed Joyce, our one class player.

“Boyd Rankin is a big loss as well. We probably have not been able to get our best team on the field, particularly after the retirement of Trent Johnson and John Mooney.

“There are a lot of young players coming through, but they are probably going to take a year or two yet to make it on the international stage.”

 

Ireland hope to play their first Test as early as 2019 – possibly against England at Lord’s – and Ian says it would be welcome reward for years of hard work.

“The 2007 World Cup was the big changeover,” he says.

“People watched that Pakistan game who had never watched cricket before. Ever since then it has taken off, both on and off the field, and has become a lot more professional.

“Now the three-day game has been given first class status, that’s put us into the professional records.

“It’s going to be more professional setup, a lot more money so we can have more contracts. There are 23 contracted players at the moment, so that will go up a bit. A lot of players are still doing other jobs and having to take time off.

“We have dominated the four-day game, we’ve won four Intercontinental Cups.

“We will need to test ourselves. We’ve got people like Ed Joyce hanging around hoping to play Test cricket, he will be 40 by that time.

“Whether there are enough people coming through to hold their own, that’s still to be proven.

“We need more experience in the longer game.”

 

Like my other Journo Talk subjects, Ian fears for the future of traditional cricket journalism.

“It’s getting harder and harder, papers are losing advertising and losing circulation,” he says.

“The web-based stuff is the way to go. I do ball-by-ball commentary with Cricket Europe, so that helps me.

“It’s a big ask for people trying to break into newspapers.”

Would Test status boost Ireland’s interest in cricket, and therefore lead to more demand for coverage?

“That’s what we’re hoping for, that’s what everybody is hoping for, but only time will tell,” Ian says.

“The newspapers will have to grasp it and the TV as well. Cricket is such a time consuming game, it takes a lot of commitment to follow it.

“If there’s a big rugby or football game, cricket is always going to be relegated. It needs a big win, then you get the coverage. If you lose, you don’t. It has always been results-based.”

Are you a proper cricket journalist? Would you like to feature on Journo Talk? E-mail samblackledge@yahoo.com or tweet @samblackledge

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