Veteran all-rounder Trent Johnston has admitted Ireland’s hopes of playing in the next World Cup could tailspin if they suffer another capitulation when they meet Pakistan in tomorrow’s second one-day international in Belfast.
Ireland produced one of their worst performances in recent times yesterday when they were bowled out for just 96 en route to a seven-wicket loss.
It was an untimely setback with the International Cricket Council’s chief executives’ committee due to discuss the possibility of overturning their decision to omit Ireland and their fellow associate countries from the next World Cup in 2015.
It was a performance that betrayed Ireland’s defiant displays at this year’s World Cup when, most notably, they beat England.
That success especially won over many fans so it was no surprise that there was widespread condemnation when the ICC subsequently announced that there would be no room for Ireland at a 2015 World Cup reduced to 10 teams.
The criticism from around the cricket community prompted the ICC to review the decision, but Johnston believes that goodwill will count for little if his team-mates do not produce a far more convincing display in tomorrow’s final game of the short series.
“It is important we put in a performance because Ireland and the next World Cup are in the limelight right now,” he said.
“It is a part of the talk around cricket right now. It is on the tips of people’s tongues that the associates and Ireland should be allowed a qualification process.
“Because of that we really need to keep the fire burning and produce a performance against Pakistan tomorrow.
“We know it is not the be all and end all, because we have been consistent in our performances for a while now and think we deserve a chance.
“But at the same time we can help our cause if we beat Pakistan tomorrow and get another full-member scalp.”
The first step towards any possible decision change was given important early momentum this month when the ICC’s Cricket Committee unanimously supported a move for a qualification system.
At present only the 10 member nations will play at the 2015 World Cup in what Johnston, who was Ireland’s delegate at the two-day Lord’s meeting, believes is a “closed-shop”.
The 37-year-old revealed he had been encouraged after the meeting after receiving full support for the associates’ plight.
“It was pretty resounding amongst the people at the meeting that they were happy with a 10-team World Cup, but they were uncomfortable with it being a closed-shop,” he said.
“The consensus was that it is unfair and that there should be some sort of qualification process.
“You look at the last World Cup and while there were some lop-sided results with the minnows, ourselves and Holland had some pretty good performances while a young emerging team like Afghanistan should be given a chance as well.
“It was pretty unanimous and we even had the CEO of New Zealand (Justin Vaughan), which is a full-member nation, back us as well so that is reassuring.”
While next month’s ICC chief executives’ committee meeting in Hong Kong is unlikely to make the final decision on whether Ireland are given a route back into the World Cup, Johnston believes it will provide a key pointer.
“The committee that will discuss it next month is the one that made the decision for a 10-team closed-shop World Cup,” he added.
“It will be interesting to see what they have to say. Obviously the talk around the cricket world has been they got the decision wrong initially, so hopefully they look at what’s been said and decide differently this time.
“Certainly we think they’ve made the wrong call, but time will tell. There is a lot of backing for us, people have come out and said it is unfair.
“The only thing we can do now perhaps is help our cause with a better performance against Pakistan tomorrow.”