Michael Halliday, December 2015
In the 1970s club cricket in Leinster was quite different from today. All games, except the 60 over cup which replaced the timeless version in 1971, were timed games.
Teams, often the weaker ones, might play for a draw. Scores were low with totals over 200 very rare. Wickets might well be uncovered and not just during the game but in the week leading up to a match. The batting was often timid and an aggressive approach was often just a last resort.
The bowling, however, was generally of a higher standard than the batting. In order to win games bowlers had to get wickets and not just prevent runs being scored by bowling negatively to defensive fields.
In comparing the cricket played today with the version seen over 40 years ago you would have to say the batting is far superior, the fielding likewise but the bowling, if anything, is worse.
Why this should be so, especially as there is a far more professional approach today, in club, interpro and Irish cricket, is a difficult question to answer.
The Irish side of the last 10 years and its management, which has had great success and is mainly responsible for the huge upsurge in interest in the game nationwide has had the following quicker bowlers bowling in crunch games: Johnston, Murtagh, Cusack, Sorensen, Langford-Smith, Mooney, O'Brien.
The first five all learnt their cricket outside Ireland and some, especially Johnston, have given immeasurable service to their adopted country. Nothing wrong with that but where are our home grown international bowlers?
At the moment we have several batsmen - Porterfield, Joyce, Stirling, O'Brien NJ, Wilson and Balbirnie - all contracted to counties and doing well. All learnt the game in Ireland.
There are some promising young seamers such as Young, Chase, McCarthy and McCarter. They need more exposure and probably need to get it in England. There has been criticism that the team playing in the World Cup needed to be freshened up but there was a reluctance to give match experience to youth.
As regards spin bowlers, Dockrell is on the books in Somerset and McBrine looks promising but are others pushing them? Spinners need to learn the arts of spinning the ball, bowling with drift and dip and taking wickets with guile. They should be seen as much more than bowlers who "take the pace off the ball".
The successful amateur bowlers of the 70s such as Alec O'Riordan, Dougie Goodwin, Simon Corlett, Dermott Monteith were better bowlers than the professionals of today despite the fact that they were basically weekend club players.
I believe that there are a few reasons for this. There was virtually no coaching after school in the 60s and 70s but I think that many modern coaches do not pay enough attention to bowlers who need specific bowling coaching on technique, how to make the ball deceive the batsman and how to set fields.
Some coaches who are excellent batting coaches are not good bowling coaches. I know the LCU and Cricket Ireland are now selecting promising teenage bowlers for individual attention. Hopefully this will make the difference.
The priority of the successful bowlers of the 60s and 70s was to take wickets, not curb run rates. Batsmen cannot score any more runs after they are dismissed. Our young bowlers need to learn how to be aggressive and make the ball talk.
A promising fast bowler will not make it unless he can swing the ball, bowl a cutter and take wickets. A slow bowler is not a spin bowler if he does not spin the ball. Kyle McCallan was a classic spin bowler. We need more like him.
Even he had initial difficulty getting his club to bowl him because they thought he might be hit around a bit. He went on to play 224 times for Ireland.
We have six top class batsmen playing county cricket. They could not have become so successful for Ireland without making a career for themselves in England. Irish cricket now needs to work on getting six top class bowlers to follow them.
Mike Hendrick was a good seam bowler coach but there was no long term benefit as the bowlers he concentrated on had fairly short Irish careers for a number of reasons. Apart from Mark Patterson playing a few games for Surrey no one else moved to England.
It is perhaps sad that young players need to do this but they have to play regularly at a higher standard. Some may even get picked for England. It has happened!
Hopefully we can pick them as Irish Test Match players soon and stop them being considered for our neighbour.