Ireland’s quest to cure their chronic lack of games against full-member nations could take them to Pakistan after confirmation talks have re-opened over a possible tour of the strife-torn nation.
Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom has revealed that contact was made with the Pakistan Cricket Board in January about reviving hopes of the tour.
Pakistan has not hosted a full international fixture since the Lahore terrorist attack in March 2009 when the Sri Lanka team bus was ambushed by gun men outside the Gaddafi Stadium. Eight people were killed in the attack while several players and officials were injured.
Ireland have previously stated their willingness to tour Pakistan, but discussions were put on hold last June following a terrorist attack on Karachi airport.
And while Deutrom admitted such incidents would still be reviewed before any possible tour, he has confirmed his desire to continue talks after the World Cup.
“We will keep this matter under review and consider a tour when conditions are right,” Deutrom said in a statement given to Press Association Sport.
“I had a preliminary discussion with the Pakistan Cricket Board in January and then we had a follow-up email, but the World Cup has taken over matters at the moment.
“I am sure discussions will recommence when we hear from the Pakistan Cricket Board.”
Deutrom’s announcement comes after captain William Porterfield has been outspoken the subject of Ireland’s need to play more matches against full-member nations.
Ireland have built a reputation for causing shocks at the World Cup only to then, in the intervening four years, slip back into the relative wilderness of associate cricket.
In the four years before this World Cup – when Ireland have already upset West Indies to give them hope of a quarter-final place – they played just nine ODIs against full-member nations.
By comparison Zimbabwe, ranked one place higher than Ireland, played 36 ODIs against fellow full-member nations.
It is a scenario that Porterfield believes is holding back a nation that, under Deutrom, has been proactive in nearly all departments but for the key exercise of playing international matches.
“We need fixtures. We’re crying out for that,” Porterfield said before the World Cup.
“We need that kind of support. As a player it is very frustrating.
“Nine games in four years is nothing really. We need to be playing more.”
In January the International Cricket Council (ICC) handed Ireland the chance to qualify for the 2019 World Cup directly for the first time, should they raise their ranking into the top-eight.
Under the system Ireland, and Afghanistan, will no longer play in the World Cricket League Championship – the 50-over tournament for associate and affiliate nations – and instead go up against the other 10 full-member nations.
That qualification route relies on Ireland playing enough games to lift their ranking and it remains to be seen if nations ranked just above Ireland would be willing to risk their status by playing matches against them, let alone in Dublin or Belfast to help grow the game there.
Pakistan have been one of the few nations willing to play Ireland – they have twice toured in the past four years – to help fill their own need for matches.
Hopes have been raised that full international cricket might return to Pakistan soon after both Afghanistan and Kenya sent their associate teams, in 2013 and 2014 respectively, without incident.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan suggested earlier this week, on the sixth anniversary of the Lahore attacks, that further tours by the likes of Ireland might also prompt other full-member nations to return.
In quotes published on www.pcb.com.pk, Shaharyar told reporters: “We are trying our best to get top teams in – top 10 teams. I have been told by some teams that if one or two make the trip then they too will follow suit.”
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