Friday 11 May 2018 is a day that will go down in the cricket history books, marking the first day Ireland stepped onto the field of play in a Test match. Bangladesh were the last team to make a Test debut 17 and a half years ago and now we will have two Test debutants – Ireland and Afghanistan – in quick succession.
It will be a very special day for everyone connected with the game in Ireland and the fruition of a long-term ambition to play Test cricket. Before a ball has even been bowled, the sense of anticipation and excitement has been growing all week. Well wishes for Ireland coming in from around the world of cricket, four-page pullout supplements in national newspapers and even Test cricketers-to-be bringing out tea for the hordes of journalists at Malahide.
There is nothing more special as a cricketer than to make your Test debut. It is 26 years ago that I made mine, against the West Indies in Bridgetown in 1992, but I remember almost every detail as if it were yesterday.
I cherish that Test match and the others that followed and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way about the longest form of the game. We are blessed in our sport to have three fantastic formats and with that comes the challenge for players of where to place their focus, but this week has reminded me of the importance of Test cricket in that mix.
It is the ultimate test and beauty of the game where players have to demonstrate complete cricketing ability. It’s a test of mental strength, strategy, technique and stamina where the story of the game can ebb and flow.
It is so different to the theatre of the one-day game or the spectacle that is T20 cricket, and that is ok. We need to celebrate what is different about each format and understand that they each have a role to play in our sport.
T20 international cricket is the way we will grow the sport globally, there are more T20 domestic leagues than there are 50 over leagues so we need to grow the international game in this format, making it as easy as possible for more countries to compete.
The recent decision to award all nations T20I status, simplify requirements around staging international games and moving the 16 team ICC World T20 to a bi-annual event are all part of this. T20 is also the way to grow our global fan base, giving new fans a format that is easy to connect with and understand. This is where sport meets entertainment.
One-Day International cricket is all the best of cricket in one day, there is something for everyone and it can engage a spectrum of fans from traditionalists to mainstream. It also provides the strongest economic legacy for the game enabling us to invest further in the future of cricket.
Test cricket is perhaps for the connoisseur, those who maybe started out watching red-ball cricket – the more traditional audience. But it also provides a newer, younger audience with the chance to deepen their engagement with the game and that is what we’ve been seeing this week as the excitement has been building in Ireland. Fans who have supported the Irish team in the shorter formats of the game will turn out in force to watch this historic occasion. I’d like to think they’ll leave Malahide, fans of Test cricket as well as ODIs and T20Is.
On behalf of everyone here at the ICC, and I’m sure in the world of cricket, I would like to wish the Ireland team all the very best over the coming days. You are writing your country’s sporting history and will be remembered for many years to come. The game will, I’m sure, fly by, but be sure to savour every moment and most importantly of all enjoy it. After all we don’t work cricket, we play cricket.
Credit: International Cricket Council