Two of the emerging cricketing nations Ireland and Afghanistan get their full test status. ICC announced this update yesterday much to the delight of Irish and Afghani people. While Ireland have struggled a lot to get this far, Afghanistan have done pretty well to get their status as quickly as they have.
The Irish Story – Ups and Downs
Ireland became an Associate member of the ICC back in 1993. They had pretty few opportunities to start with. They lost a 1999 World Cup qualifier against Scotland, an early chance to shine on the big stage went begging. An introduction to ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004 was a good setup for Ireland to play regular cricket.
They played their first ODI vs England in Belfast in front of a full house. England won the game by 38 runs but Strauss praised the Irish team and their progress. Come the January of 2007, Ireland received the ODI status by the ICC. A 2007 World Cup was an opening they craved for.
2007 World Cup became a Turning Point:-
Victory against Pakistan was the biggest of their history in the 2007 World Cup. They showed the world that the Irish story has just begun. They further defeated Bangladesh in the Super 8s to stamp their status as a team who are here to play.
A big blow arrived when Eoin Morgan decided to leave Ireland and play for England in 2007. The current England captain had a good influence in the Irish middle-order. He scored 744 runs in 23 ODIs for them.
Influence of playing for England just for more fame and name got to Ed Joyce too. He too left Ireland in 2006 but came back a year later when his stints at England wasn’t going that good. Ireland’s progress towards the top level was always hindered by issues with the ECB.
Boyd Rankin was the latest influenced, leaving his country to play for England in 2013. But again came back in 2014 to serve his country. These departures and arrivals at different times had a bad effect on long-term future of Irish cricket. Beating England in 2011 World Cup was just a redemption they needed to move forward.
Finally, they got a chance to play a two-match ODI series against England in 2017. Both matches had crowd attendance beyond expectations. England won both games but it was an ‘influencing the world performance’ by the Irish team.
They now have a settled team with a core group of players like skipper Porterfield, the O’Brien brothers, Rankin, Wilson, etc. Challenging for higher accolades can be achieved with a settled squad, having a test status is just the boost this team needed 24 years after getting the Associate Member tag from the ICC.
The Afghan Story – Ups and Downs
50,000 years ago, there were major doubts whether lifestyle can sustain in the lands of Kabul and other cities of Afghanistan. Now, they are producing cricketing talents of the highest quality and challenging the world.
The Afghan story has a short background with quick turnarounds and giant strides. They got their ODI status in 2011 for four years but couldn’t qualify for the 2011 World Cup. Played in the Intercontinental Cup and impressed many people.
They turned up with passion and vigour every time they’re on the field. Qualified for the 2010 and 2012 World T20, challenged against the likes of India, South Africa and England. Didn’t get any success but the world knew about them now. They were there to play and not to make up the numbers. This resulted in ICC giving them the Associate Member tag in 2013.
Playing the Asia Cup Helped:-
Playing in the 2014 Asia Cup helped their cause as they got regular cricketing action with world’s top 10 and Asia’s big men. They defeated the hosts Bangladesh in that competition to stamp their tag as ‘no pushovers.’ This helped the Afghan cricket in a massive way, the ACC needs to be given the due credit for this.
Qualifying for the 50-over 2015 World Cup was another huge step from the Afghans. Defeating Scotland in that tournament and getting close to upset Sri Lanka were further evidence of them stepping up the plate on the big stage.
They are ranked 9th in T20 international rankings and it showed when they defeated West Indies in the 2016 World T20. Remember the Windies were the eventual champions in that competition. ODI series win against Ireland in India and beating Zimbabwe away from home in an ODI series were few of their achievements that deserve great plaudits.
Some of their cricketers like Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have played the IPL too. Special mention to Rashid who bamboozled everyone with his fast leg-breaks and subtle variations.
The Afghans deserve this test status and further evidence that ICC has wasted little time in recognising the talent this team has. Further nurturing and playing regular matches will only help make this team jump new heights.