Kenny Caroll was an Ireland cricketer who played the ODI world cup in 2007. He also tried to play in the London Olympics as a hockey player but Ireland failed to qualify. What could an Irish sportsman do in those days? Kenny became a postman, clutching a gray-clothed postbag of dreams, regrets, and hopes across Dublin. Luckily, things have changed a bit now. Central contracts and with it comes not just security but excitement, says George Dockrell, who has played 198 international games for Ireland across formats and is part of the squad for the upcoming two T20 games against India to be played on 26th and 28th June.
“It’s been incredibly exciting, playing over the last decade or so with Ireland and watching how much Irish cricket has developed”, the 29-year old Dockrell tells The Indian Express. Dockrell was one of the first 19 players to be awarded a central contract from Cricket Ireland in 2020 (the first year in which all contracts were awarded on a full-time basis).
“It’s been a lot of changes. Most certainly, better support for players back home, and having a lot of the Irish guys now based in Ireland, the majority of them. It’s superb to have that kind of domestic structure grow. There’s certainly a lot of areas that we still need to work on in terms of the facilities and keep driving that domestic game up in standard. But it’s fantastic to see how far it has come. Exciting next 10 years for Irish cricket to see how far we can go from here.”
Throughout his career of 193 international games for Ireland across formats, Dockrell has featured against India four times. Twice in the ODI World Cup (2011 and 2015) and in the two T20Is at home back in the summer of 2018. Dockrell says the upcoming T20 series against India is a ‘ pretty special way’ to start off what is going to be ‘a big summer’ for Ireland Cricket.
“It’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the world,” he says. “I think having India to start off international summer, it’s always going to be a big one for us. Last time we played them in Dublin (2018), it was two sell out games. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. It’s always exciting when you have a game against India, and the buzz that is generated around that.”
There are notable changes in the India squad that travels to Ireland this week than the one that featured in Dublin four years ago. Plenty of big names from the current India white-ball lineup, including captain Rohit Sharma are part of the squad in England for the one-off Test early next month. Stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal are the only common links between the two two-match series’ in Ireland four years apart.
For most of the Indian players traveling to Ireland, it will be their first exposure to cricket in the UK conditions. Dockrell, though, believes it isn’t a strong argument to suggest that the visitors start on the backfoot going into the series.
“Look it’s double edged in the sense that there’d be some inexperience in terms of that group but at the same time, it’s a hungry group of cricketers who are trying to make their mark in international cricket,” the slow left-arm orthodox says. “Yeah, there’s a lot of personnel changes within. It’s quite different I suppose, with the concurrent squads playing across the world. It’s something that we have seen more of off late. But I think with that India team, it’s still full of some world class players.”
Recollecting from his experiences of playing against India in 2011, 2015, and 2016, Dockrell adds, “Every time I’ve taken the field against India, every single person you go up against pushes you right to where you want to be at this level of international cricket.”
The Irish international associates this depth at hand for India and other international sides, across formats, to IPL and the T20 franchise leagues across the world.
“You have guys now who have played a huge amount of IPL before making their India debut,” he says. “You get to test yourself against the best in the world on that platform. You have cricketers who come to the international platform with a lot of cricket under their belt, and therefore are better prepared. Means you have a bigger group of players to choose from who are at that level. These leagues have been fantastic in allowing players to develop. When they do get the opportunity (for national sides), they are that bit better. And we can see that as I say across these split format squads we’re seeing now in international cricket.”
‘Exciting next 10 years for Irish Cricket’
Dockrell made his debut for Ireland in February 2010. The men’s cricket team had just made remarkable first impressions in world tournaments, beating Pakistan in their first ODI World Cup in 2007 and Bangladesh in their first T20 World Cup in 2009. Since then, Ireland have been regulars at the white-ball World Cups, with the exception of the 2019 ODI World Cup in England which was reduced to 10 teams from 14 in the previous edition.
Test Cricket: Love and frustration
Dockrell says he loves all three formats of the game. But his eyes have an exclusive glimmer when he talks about Test cricket.
“I’ve loved Test cricket, the longer format all my life,” he says.
Congrats to @ACBofficials on winning their first test match. Plenty of things for us to work on moving forward but learned a lot from this trip. Home now for a big summer with @LCU_Lightning and @Irelandcricket pic.twitter.com/TjN0fzFFd7
— George Dockrell (@georgedockrell) March 18, 2019
The Ireland all-rounder had to wait for nine years and 142 white-ball appearances before he got his first and only cap so far in the red-ball format. In the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Dehradun. Since then, the men in green have played only one more Test, accounting for a total of three in their history.
“It’s been frustrating for us, the lack of Test cricket that we have had in the last number of years,” says Dockrell. “Now, I understand that there are financial restrictions and reasons behind a lot of these series but it’s incredibly important to be playing multi-day cricket. It’s where you learn a lot of your game. Spending time in the middle, bowling a lot. I think it to be incredibly important to developing the players, even players who’ve already made it but often it could be a big part for them to be spending a lot of time in the middle. It’s very important to keep the game growing across the world.”
He concludes by saying, “Again, I certainly understand there’s (smiles) logistical issues and things that are bigger than the things I think about but as a player I’d like to see more of the longer format cricket. Across the world.”
Watch the LIVE coverage of Ireland vs India – 1st & 2nd T20i on SONY SIX (English), SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) & SONY TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels on 26th & 28th June 2022 from 9:00 pm IST.