Cricket is so hot right now. Forget touch rugby, summer 2011 is going to be the summer of cricket - at least it should be.
In one day - no; in one innings Irish cricket was catapulted into the spotlight and for all the right reasons. In offices across the country, the day’s cricket results suddenly became a normal topic of conversation. Children knew Kevin O’Brien’s name and he went from your ordinary Joe Bloggs to someone everyone claims to be related to or to know in some way or another.
Cricket on this island could change forever because of Ireland’s historic defeat of England; or it could stay the same. Whether we benefit from all this exposure doesn’t just depend on the boys in India, it depends on every club and that means you.
“Everyone down around me is mad into the cricket now,” a friend from Wexford told me last week. “They’re all saying it’s like London winning the All-Ireland. I’d say it’d be a great laugh playing that game.” Music to my ears. There’s one more athletic woman I can get my hooks into for club cricket this summer and hopefully beyond, and she’s not the only one.
We must strike while the iron is hot. Immediately following the demise of Strauss and the rest of the Poms at the hands of Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien, the media wheels started to turn. Michael O’Leary doesn’t miss a beat as he showed with his Ryanair advert stating that Ireland was the home of cricket, the famous breadmakers were salivating and every paper and radio station in the country jumped on the O’Brien bandwagon.
There was endless chatter about what this could mean for Kev and the other lads: the deals they could make, contracts they could sign, endorsements and the like. The world was - and still is - their oyster. But while these are the topics at the front and back of every newspaper, the fact is it’s not all about them.
This is what all of those behind the scenes have been working towards for a long time now. Cricket Ireland and the various Cricket Unions needed this big victory, something to hold up and say “It’s worthwhile playing and supporting Irish cricket”. But it’s no use having won this match if even more work isn’t done now, by everyone.
The timing couldn’t be better. Summer term in schools starts just after St Patrick’s Day this year and it’s the perfect opportunity to get cricket played in schools that don’t traditionally offer the game, but it’s going to take more than just a handful of coaches in schools and maybe a few more development officers.
“I suppose what happened four years ago was that many of the clubs were not ready for the influx of players following the win against Pakistan,” says LCU President Eddie Lewis.
“Clubs have more time to prepare this time around, but the bottom line is that there are not enough clubs - some have over 200 members at present and cannot absorb many more.”
New clubs are appearing though - Clonee, Carlow, Tyrrelstown, Swords and Greystones are some of the places where clubs are popping up. Members have taken coaching courses and the LCU are working with them to find grounds and funding, but more can be done.
Every cricketer can do their bit. People you wouldn’t have dreamed of inviting down the cricket club before should be an easy sell. Whether they’re playing, socialising, bringing their kids down or just enjoying a game in the sun, we can all increase the numbers in the game with this historic achievement as our backdrop.
So what I’m saying is, stop waiting for your club committee, the LCU or even Cricket Ireland to do something about it, get up and do something yourself. Invite all your friends down to watch a match, bring them to training, volunteer to help with Sunday morning coaching, because if we all let this slip by without capitalising on Ireland’s success we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.