Hamish Marshall has sights set on Ireland place
Hamish Marshall has announced his intention to play international cricket for Ireland when he qualifies next April.
The former New Zealand batsman turned his back on the Black Caps after the 2007 World Cup and his since plied his trade in the County Championship with Gloucestershire and in the breakaway ICL.
And he intends to make the most of an Irish passport which already allows him to play as a domestic player for Gloucestershire.
It bucks a current trend whereby Ireland, the most consistent non-Test playing nation in recent years, have lost their most talent cricketers to England.
Eoin Morgan is the current darling of the English ODI and T20 teams and his compatriot Ed Joyce played against Ireland in the 2007 World Cup.
Ireland’s performance in that tournament, where they knocked out Pakistan on a memorable St Patrick’s day, alerted cricket’s mainstream and they claimed another major scalp in last year’s World T20, beating Bangladesh.
Marshall’s intentions will come as music to the ears of the ambitious Irish authorities, who are putting together an application for full ICC status.
Ireland currently play full 50 and 20 over internationals but also want the opportunity to play Test cricket; it is a romantic notion.
For all their success Test cricket represents an unparalleled rise in standard.
England have recently returned from a tour in Bangladesh, the last side admitted to the Test match cluster, and despite their clear improvement, the Tigers are still fodder for top sides.
Most pundits agree that Bangladesh’s introduction to the five day game was premature but few question the talent and passion for the game which drives Bangladesh forward.
The same cannot be said for Ireland where cricket, despite an encouraging participation surge, remains very much a minority sport.
Marshall, a man with a modest international record, will be a valuable addition to the batting order but his presence, alongside a handful of South Africans and Australians, will speak volumes.
To compete at Test level Ireland will need to prove talents such as Morgan, Joyce, Boyd Rankin and Niall O’Brien are part of a conveyor belt of talent and not a golden generation.
On the flip-side, Ireland is a first-world country and with sufficient funding and investment might be able to occupy the same niche as Marshall’s birth country.
New Zealand and Ireland share much in common demographically, geographically and ancestrally but Test cricket is not in need of another team of nuggety scrappers.
Fewer sides are capable of competing at the ‘pinnacle,’ level and with other avenues available to players, Test matches are fast becoming the concern of four or five teams.
Sadly, there seems little room for Ireland.