Persistence has brought rich dividends to Ireland and Afghanistan

Persistence has brought rich dividends to Ireland and Afghanistan

Both teams will be proud on how far they have reached since making their international debuts almost a decade ago.

Afghanistan Cricket Team. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Ireland and Afghanistan were fast-tracked into full ICC members following their rapid rise in limited overs cricket. They, now, become the 11th and 12th Test playing nations. At the ICC’s Annual General Meeting on Thursday, both nations were anonymously given the green signal for their respective application for being granted the Test status.

Ireland’s steady rise

Ireland played their first ODI in 2006 against England and fared decently by falling just 38 runs short of England’s target of 302. From then on, they have played entertaining cricket and have surprised big teams on a few occasions. They qualified for three straight World Cups – 2007, 2011 and 2015. Ireland didn’t want to just grab a few World Cup appearances; they went on to upset Pakistan in the 2007 edition, in their first World Cup, game which led to the 1992 champion’s shock exit in the first round itself. In the next two editions, they again punched above their weight to defeat England at Bangalore and the West Indies at Nelson to show their worth at the big stage.

Ireland’s performance hasn’t been a flash in the pan. In 86 ODIs against low ranked teams including Bangladesh, Afghanistan and West Indies, Ireland have won 49 games with a neat winning ratio of almost 57%. In games against higher ranked teams, though, Ireland have struggled, winning just 2 games out of 37. But that will improve once they will be given more opportunities against the big teams during the course of the time.

Rapid rise of Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s rise has been steep in comparison to Ireland. They played their first ODI in 2009 and after 8 years without proper infrastructure and war stricken state of their country, they have managed to make giant strides in international cricket. They have palpable talent, as one could see the ability of Rashid Khan in the IPL recently. Afghanistan have the International Stadium in Greater Noida as their home ground where they have trained a lot during their international stint. They have shown that they belong to this level by consistently producing moments of brilliance in 83 ODI appearances since their debut. Their win percentage against low ranked sides including Bangladesh, West Indies and Ireland is identical to the latter: 57%. They haven’t beaten any major team, like Ireland have, but have the ability to become one of the dangerous sides going around in world cricket.

Both teams were fiercely competitive in their 5- match bilateral series held at Greater Noida earlier in the year. They stood level at the end of the fourth game and Afghanistan sealed the virtual final by 7 wickets to win their second consecutive ODI series with an identical margin 3-2, the earlier one coming against Zimbabwe. They bamboozled the West Indies in an overseas series when Rashid Khan skittled out the hosts for 149 by picking a record 7/18 to take the lead in the first game. West Indies came back by winning the second game and the third, also the final one, was set to be a riveting contest. Except that it was abandoned due to rain.

The ICC has made a great decision to give both these wonderful teams a shot at Test cricket which is welcomed by the cricket fraternity. Ireland and Afghanistan jointly become the first teams in 17 years to be handed the Test status. It is the first time since 1877 that two teams were awarded the Test status simultaneously, the last teams being Australia and England. It is only fair to give these two sides the exposure at this level which will make them familiar with the fine nuances of the game.

There is no secret that Test cricket is on the wane since the advent of T20 cricket. The ICC must quickly start the Test championship to restore the traditional form of cricket. Inducting new teams, who are capable of handling the demands of the 5-day cricket, is another way of bringing the crowds back to the stadiums to watch Test cricket.

Big achievement for both countries

This is redemption time for the likes of Ed Joyce and Mohammad Nabi, both of whom have played a big part in their respective country’s journey. When Morgan was summoned by England, an opportunity that the southpaw said yes at the drop of the hat; Joyce returned to play for his native nation Ireland in 2011. The 38-year old wanted to play Test cricket before he calls time on his career and this is the perfect opportunity to make a mark before he walks into the sunset. Ireland needs him the most as he has immense experience of playing first-class cricket in England.

Nabi, along with young Rashid Khan, became the first cricketers from Afghanistan to win an IPL contract. Rashid went on to play all 15 games for his franchise while Nabi chipped in with valuable performances whenever he was given an opportunity. Both of these cricketers will now have to play an even bigger role in establishing their country in Test cricket.