Cork Cricket Club

‘We need to focus on the future’ – Trent Johnston

Just two weeks after returning home from the 2011 Cricket World Cup, Irish players were stunned to learn that they will not be given a chance to participate or even to try and qualify for the next event in 2015. Having beaten three full ICC members (Pakistan, Bangladesh and England) at two World Cup tournaments in the past four years, Irish officials were confident the team’s record would speak for itself.

“Monday was a dark day for cricket but a great day for greed and fear,” Ireland coach Phil Simmons said in response. “It is hard to find words to describe this despicable decision, made by some who want to keep things amongst themselves and some who fear us.” Ireland’s players also reacted furiously and those contracted to county teams in England, who favour the ten-team plan for Australia, were warned “to be very careful” about any comments made in public.

Former Ireland team captain and fast bowler Trent Johnston was in Cork in recent days to help train Cork County Cricket Club’s senior team and promote the game locally, and in an exclusive interview with The Cork News he stressed his opinion that current players, coaches and officials all have a responsibility to ensure development of the game here in the coming years.

“I still remember almost everything that happened at the 2007 World Cup,” he said. “I remember the deliveries; I remember the catches against Pakistan and all those sorts of things. They are great memories and the 15 players that went across to the West Indies will always have something special to share. It also kick-started what we’re experiencing now.

“People have asked how it compared with 2011. The victory over England was probably better than the wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh, but the journey that we had in 2007 will probably never be seen again from an Irish cricket team because it was our first World Cup, we made it through to the Super Eights, we beat a full member country in the Super Eights and we really ignited the interest in cricket in this country once again. That’s what has been most amazing about all of this.”

That same three-wicket win over England on March 2nd will always be remembered for Kevin O’Brien’s century, which was made off of 50 balls and was the fastest in World Cup history. The Irish chase (329 in 49.1 overs) was also the highest successful chase in the tournament’s records but while Trent and his team-mates were delighted by the victory, he admitted that the squad had ultimately failed to realise their own targets.

“There was a lot of work put in between the two World Cups. Four years ago we had two contracted players at the World Cup; this time around, we had 13 contracted players and that’s a massive step. John Mooney was at a crossroads in 2008 and ready to pack it in, but he’s now on his second contract and could quite easily have been our Player of the Year in 2010.

“The game against England was the first time Ireland put 11 fully contracted guys on the field. The best thing is that there were only two guys not born in Ireland playing in that game. There are a lot of locals coming through and that’s the most important thing for us – making sure we develop kids, bring them along and get them up to standard. Irish cricket is no longer relying on four or five non-nationals to improve its team – the guys are doing pushed things for themselves and the structures are slowly being put in place.

“The quarter-finals were our minimum target, so we didn’t hit our expectations unfortunately. We knew we had a pretty good start with Bangladesh as our first team but we screwed up there when we should probably have won. We had a great victory against England, we pushed (eventual winners) India all the way and we might even have won that game if we got some extra runs in and I didn’t go off with a knee injury. John (Mooney) missed some stumps by very little and those kinds of things are the difference between facing Pakistan in the quarter-finals and going home.

“The main thing now is that we have to stay in front of the other sports nipping at the heals of rugby, GAA and soccer and the development of junior programmes is critical to that. We want kids to be playing our sport. Many of those development procedures are in place so it’s just a matter of taking them to the next level and getting our high-profile players out there and making kids aware that we want them to do well. We need to do the hard work just as much as the hundreds of volunteers across the country. We might not be at the 2015 World Cup, but we still need to keep cricket growing.”

And while ICC support for Ireland’s endeavours would be welcome, Trent has no evidence of a willingness to get the squad more involved internationally. “We’ve played 15 ODIs (one-day internationals) against full member countries since 2007 and eight of them have been against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. We’ve played one of the top eight teams seven times and that’s not good enough – you can’t take any experience away from those games.

“We need to be playing the Australias, the Indias and the likes of Sri Lanka on a regular basis and we need to be part of the future tours programme, which lays out where teams will play for the next five years. That would be an enormous help in terms of sponsorship, media exposure and budgets. However, while there are a lot of things still up in the air right now, the biggest thing is that we need to concentrate on our own backyard and keep the kids coming through.”

Trent reintroduced his famed ‘chicken dance’ at the 2011 World Cup, much to the delight of the local Indian crowds. It all started out as a joke, though the signature move is likely to have seen its last days too. “I was on the dance floor one night back in Wollongong, where I’m from, and somebody said that I danced like a chicken. I wasn’t going to roll a beamer at Ricky Ponting or anything like that just so I’d be remembered at a World, but I thought I’d do the dance when I got a big name out. It was going to be retired until the next World Cup, but I won’t be there anyway by the looks of it.”

At the age of 36, Trent’s future plans have been a subject of interest for some time. “The mind’s willing, the heart’s willing and I’m enjoying every minute of it,” he concluded. “The ICC have made my decision to retire after the 2012 T/20 World Cup very easy. I know I have more to offer right now. I certainly don’t want to hold anybody back but if I’m still adding to the team, I’ll keep playing and if not… then thanks for the memories.”

Cork County Cricket Club will host an Open Day in their Mardyke grounds on Saturday, April 16th from 2pm. Adults and children interested in taking up the game are all welcome to attend as there will be plenty of players and coaches available on the day to answer any questions. For more information, log on to www.corkcountycricketclub.com.

Courtesy: Niamh O’Mahony (TheCorkNews)

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