A piece of cricket news that has slipped under the radar for many today has been the addition of Warwickshire's Boyd Rankin into the England Lions squad for the rest of their One Day series against Sri Lanka A. On the surface, this may seem a trivial piece of news, but when you realise that this is the same Boyd Rankin who's gone to two World Cups and played 32 ODIs for Ireland, then it suddenly gets a bit more interesting.
Boyd, the big fast bowler from Derry, has had quite a bit of international success so far in his career. Ireland's leading wicket taker at the seminal 2007 World Cup and the leader of the attack in 2011, Rankin is a massive (quite literally, standing at 6ft 8ins) part of the Irish team who have made huge strides in international cricket over the past few years. However, he's been on England's radar for the past couple of years, and it looks as though he's about to follow fellow ex-Irish internationals Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce in turning out for England. A country he isn't from.
I've written before just how much I sympathise with Irish cricketers. Any cricketer, anywhere in the world, wants to play test cricket, and sadly at the moment that's something that isn't offered to Irish cricketers. It's been well publicised that both Joyce and Morgan repatriated themselves in the search for test cricket (Morgan made it, Joyce didn't), and it appears that Rankin is following the same path. However. They'd be representing England despite not being from England, and while hoping to play test cricket certainly is a noble goal, I'd like to play football for Brazil, but as I am not from Brazil, I am not going to realise this ambition. (And it's not because I'm not good enough, because I am...)
The issue of non-English people playing for England is a sticky one. As great as it is that England are flying so high in world cricket at the moment, the fact that Pietersen, Trott, Kieswetter, Dernbach, Morgan and Lumb have got us there does make the whole thing slightly hollow. While I can understand that the lure of test cricket as well as a much more professional structure in English cricket would tempt Boyd Rankin, his would be another name on the list of foreign imports into the English team. Which doesn't quite sit with me.
It's a tough one, and without wanting to sound all David Starkey about it, it shouldn't really be allowed. People have the fortune, or the misfortune, to be born in certain parts of the world, and as such, should represent that nation in international sport. Otherwise it's hardly inter-national, is it? At a time where Ireland could be on the brink of achieving some great things (and as such, need all of the talent they have), Boyd could be turning his back on them to chase his test dream. Ireland are a team who could be on the verge of something big, but how can they progress if their brightest talents abandon them as soon as England flutter their eyelids? On the 25th August, England travel over to Stormont for an ODI against Ireland. It's not inconcievable that with Rankin being named in the Lions squad (effectively a reserve international team) and England's first choice bowlers potentially being rested after a tough Indian test series that Rankin gets picked by England. With test cricket potentially beckoning, if Ireland are able to tempt him to stay with them, it will show the massive strides being made by Cricket Ireland. If they can't, it could open the floodgates for the likes of Stirling, Dockrell and plenty of other young Irish talent who rightly or wrongly fancy a craic at playing for England.
And a quote to show Irish fans that not all of their players want to cross the Irish Sea... Kevin O'Brien: "Play for England? You must be joking! I'm Irish, I want to play for Ireland!"