The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport held a “Welcome Home party” for Ireland’s World Cup cricket team, Management and Supporters , at the Farmleigh Estate in Castleknock – indeed it was the first official function hosted by the Minister, Leo Varadkar. Although originally intended as a celebration event, inevitably the question of the exclusion of Ireland and the other associate members from the next two World Cup was raised in the Minister’s speech.
“This evening is all about celebrating the Irish Cricket Team’s performance at this year’s Cricket World Cup. But it really cannot pass without mention of the recent decision of the ICC to exclude associate nations from the 2015 World Cup. Non-Test nations such as Ireland have played a major part in World Cups, not just by their talent and skill, but also by their commitment, passion and love of the game.
It is difficult to see how the best interests of the game can be served by not allowing countries such as Ireland a chance to compete at the highest level. This ‘closed shop’ approach cannot be good for the game, and appears to fly in the face of the sacred values that cricket has espoused for so long – namely fair play, sportsmanship and camaraderie.
A World Cup restricted to ten teams is not a World Cup at all. And the decision made by the ICC does not reflect the values of a sport that aims to be a gentleman’s game. To coin another phrase, it’s just not cricket.
I fully support the efforts of Cricket Ireland and the other non-Test countries to persuade the ICC Board to reverse their decision. And I want you to know that my offices are available to assist the associate nations in their campaign to have this decision reversed, in any way that you see fit “.
He paid tribute also to the efforts of Ireland’s cricket team in the recent World Cup:
“March 2nd was a day when World Cup records tumbled to the Irish team and to Kevin O’Brien. Enormous praise and credit is due to the team for the exciting and courageous manner in which they chased down a massive England innings total. The highest ever successful run chase at a World Cup, and the fastest ever World Cup Century ensured a most memorable day, not only for Irish Cricket, but for Irish sport in general.”
He complimented the Irish fans support for their team : “I would also like to give a special mention to the Irish fans, some of whom I’m delighted could make it this evening. And some of whom I met in Eden Park in Calcutta for the Ireland-Holland game. As you would expect they conducted themselves with great dignity and were great ambassadors for Ireland. Having made the journey so far from home to support the Irish team, their presence was a huge boost to the players”.
And on the subject of his own involvement in Irish sport? : “I am probably not the sportiest member of the Cabinet. I don’t have an all-Ireland county medal like Jimmy Deenihan or indeed an all-Ireland club soccer medal like the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring. And I certainly have not been winched off any yachts like the Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, though we have played on the rugby team on a few occasions – he was the captain, I was the sub.
But I probably am one of the few people in the Cabinet who actually knows quite a lot about cricket. I even know the rules, or should I say the laws. In part, it’s because I played cricket for a while as an under 11s player in Phoenix Park, but more because I have an Indian father and grew up in a house with someone for whom cricket is almost a religion. I grew up with sporting heroes like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards and Ricky Ponting”
“The Sports Division makes up only a small part of my new Department and it has a relatively small budget. But it’s going to be a major part of the Department when it comes to activity. I am particularly aware of the major cross-over between tourism and sport and the economic and diplomatic opportunities that sport can bring.
On a political level, cricket is an all-Ireland sport and the team playing for Ireland plays for the Republic and the North, for Protestants and Catholics, and those of no particular persuasion.”