PE at school invariably needed teams to be picked when we were playing football or GAA. Two captains took it in turn to make their choice, starting with the best and gradually working their way through the class. It usually ended up with two evenly matched sides as they knew the merits of each classmate having been with them for years.
Cricket Ireland this week unveiled their new plans for the interpros which will see the selectors allocate 12 players to each of the four provinces and allow the local head coaches to add players as and when they see fit.
However, unlike my PE matches of days gone by, there will be no equal distribution of talent, with Leinster Lightning keeping their almost exclusively international squad.
If one of the aims of reviving a competition that the Irish public have a diminishing appetite for was a level playing field, then it’s missed its target.
There has been a lot of consultations with various parties, and I’m sure a lot of horse trading has taken place before the final plans were laid out. The original hope that the wealth of talent would be distributed equally with five centrally contracted players given to each of the provinces soon got shouted down.
In terms of matches the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. The six first-class matches have been scrapped for 2021, and reading between the lines is unlikely to appear again in the format of previous years. If multi-day cricket does return it will in all probability be North v South games in the build up to a home Test.
The 150k euros saved have been used to enter a ‘Munster’ side into the 50-over competition and also establish an Emerging interpro tournament in which we will get to see the real Munster.
What then are the likely compositions of the four provinces? Cricket Ireland will be supplying 48 names, and you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes or Nostradamus to predict the majority of them. CI issued 20 central contracts for this year, 6 uncontracted players are in the Wolves squad for Bangladesh, while there were another 19 awarded Academy and Emerging Academy contracts last year.
Lightning have ten players on full-time contracts and will be a de-facto international side yet again. Andrew Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Peter Chase, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell* retainer only, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, Simi Singh and Lorcan Tucker. Add Tyrone Kane who has been a regular in all formats and you have a pretty formidable outfit.
With Tucker guaranteed the gloves, it leaves an interesting situation when it comes to the keeping situation. Gary Wilson will be first choice for the Northern Knights, leaving Neil Rock and Stephen Doheny in all likelihood tossing a coin to see which one is heading for Derry and the other for Cork. Wee tip for whoever makes it to the NW, when we say “yes” we are saying hello.
The Northern Knights will be led by the aforementioned Gary Wilson, and expected alongside him will be fellow contracted internationals Mark Adair, James McCollum, Paul Stirling, Shane Getkate* retainer only, Harry Tector and injury permitting David Delany. The Clontarf speedster is currently on crutches, having returned early from the UAE. A troublesome knee saw him miss most of 2020, and depending on his prognosis must be a major doubt for the first part of the interpros which start in May.
Jeremy Lawlor and Ben White are both in the Ireland Wolves squad and will play their part, while James Cameron-Dow, arguably the biggest spinner of the ball in the country, is still very much in the frame despite being omitted from this month’s tour.
Jacob Mulder has gone back to Australia, but Ruhan Petorius, CJ van der Walt, Josh Manley, Marc Ellison and Carl Robinson are all still here and keen to push their case. Others who have played in recent times include Graeme McCarter, James Hunter, Ross Adair, Matthew Foster and Oliver Metcalfe.
What then of the NW Warriors who have struggled in recent times? There’s talk they will be advertising for a full-time coach with a development role too. The region recently adopted a points based system to encourage clubs to develop their own players, but it seems that in 2021 that many of their squad will be plying their trade outside the region.
Andy McBrine will skipper the side, with Craig Young and William Porterfield the only other centrally contracted players in the ranks. Boyd Rankin will attempt to play his way back into international contention but Stuart Thompson is rumoured to be debating his interpro future. Hopefully he will commit and play despite losing his international deal.
Graham Hume who will be playing for Waringstown this season is the only Warrior in the Wolves squad which makes the Cricket Ireland picks for the region a more complicated one. Will Smale and Nathan McGuire were in previous years given to them and the pair will return in 2021. Graham Kennedy is another who has switched unions but he and fellow Academy players Ross Allen, Conor Olphert and Kyle Magee will surely feature. As stated earlier they will get Rock or Doheny, plus at least one other from Dublin.
Locally based players who have featured in recent years include David Rankin, Ryan Hunter, Aaron Heywood, David Barr, Jared Wilson, Gregory McFaul and the Chopras.
The selection for Munster is not an easy one to guess with no representation in Ireland or the Wolves. They do have one in the Emerging Academy, Zubair Hassan. Other local players used in recent times include Ru and Seanan Jones, Diarmuid Carey and Aaron Cawley. Leinster based players will form the majority of their side, dependent on Lightning and Irish needs. These could include Jack Tector, the Ford brothers, James Newland, Rory Anders, Fiachra Tucker, JJ Garth, Fionn Hand, Mitchell Thompson, Mike Frost, Tim Tector, Jamie Forbes, Seamus Lynch, Jamie McNulty and Theo Dempsey.
Two new development posts in the region is welcome news, and while the coaching hub for Munster Reds being in Dublin tells you all you need to know about the composition of the side, the Emerging competition offers a genuine opportunity for Ted Williamson’s charges to make a real name for themselves. It will be interesting to see how the competition unfurls.
Roll on May!