Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
Cricket Ireland has today unveiled a new structure for the men’s domestic Inter-Provincial Series, which includes Munster Reds becoming a fourth team in the 50-over Cup competition, creation of new performance coaching hubs, a revised squad selection process, and the creation of a new emerging team competition.
The improvements endeavour to create a true best v best system for Irish cricket, which will benefit the international pathway and increase top-level opportunities at this level for a wider pool of players.
The change will also see a future increase in investment in the Munster pathway system to support growth and opportunity for players coming through the province’s youth ranks.
The announcement today outlines five key improvements:
The new structure includes the four teams of North West Warriors, Northern Knights, Leinster Lightning and the Munster Reds in both formats competing in the two white-ball competitions as follows:
• Inter-Provincial Cup competition (50-over format): a four-team league comprising a two round-robin series, allowing each team a total of six matches each.
• Inter-Provincial Trophy competition (T20 format): a four-team league comprising a series of three-day festivals.
With regards to the red-ball format, with no summer Test scheduled in 2021, Cricket Ireland has prioritised white-ball cricket due to there being three white ball world cups over the next three years, however, will be exploring ways to reintroduce the Inter-Provincial Championship when both the pandemic and consequential financial situation permits.
SELECTION OF SQUADS
The selection process for the four squads will be refined to seek a best v best outcome that will raise the quality and competitiveness of the competition. Under the approved changes, the Chair of National Men’s Selectors and National Head Coach will work closely with the Provincial Union Head Coaches to select a core squad of 12 players for each team. Provincial Unions will then add additional local players as and when they see fit. Match day squads will continue to be selected by local Provincial Unions selectors.
The selectors will adopt a selection policy that, as far as possible, balances the need to strengthen the tournament via best v best against ensuring the strength of Provincial Union identity.
A new player loan system will be put in place for 2021, allowing for teams who have injuries and exceptional circumstances around player availability, to take on loan a player of suitable quality and skill-set which they may not have locally.
INTRODUCTION OF NEW PERFORMANCE COACHING HUBS
New Provincial Union-based Performance Coaching Hubs will be established, which will replace the previous coaching regime that was arranged and led by the national head coach out of the High Performance Centre in Dublin. The new system will see additional Performance Hubs in Belfast and Bready. In the short-term, the Munster performance coaching hub will be based in Dublin (see below).
Following squad selections, the Head Coaches of each team will meet with the National Coaches to design a coaching programme throughout the year, taking into account the International, Ireland Wolves and Inter-Provincial fixtures schedule.
The national coaches will plan their attendance at the Provincial Union’s hub sessions throughout each week to assist and complement the head coaches for each team. This will come as an additional investment by Cricket Ireland, but one seen as critical to ensuring the success of the new model, and similar to the operations in other full member countries.
NEW EMERGING INTER-PROVINCIAL COMPETITION
To complement work being undertaken at the top-level, Cricket Ireland and the Provincial Unions have agreed to create a new tournament that will be played out by all four Provincial Union Emerging teams. The tournament will involve the four province’s emerging teams, and will be managed under the auspices of Cricket Ireland’s National Talent Pathway Manager.
A further announcement about this will be made in coming weeks.
STRATEGIC REFOCUS FOR MUNSTER REDS
While the new structure will see the Munster Reds team increasing their fixtures each year and entering the 50-over competition, there has been a need to take several actions in order to improve the progress of Munster Cricket in developing its own talent pipeline.
The team will continue to be managed by the Munster Cricket Union, however, in the short term the Munster performance coaching hub will be based in Dublin.
Over the next three years, Cricket Ireland and Munster Cricket Union have agreed the strategic need to invest time and resources into youth cricket, talent pathway and the Munster (Heat) Emerging squad, while re-focussing the Munster Reds to meet the wider needs of Irish cricket. In addition, Munster will also focus on developing revenue streams to enable them to invest in local player development and emerging players based in Munster.
The longer-term plan is for the Munster performance coaching hub to return to Munster, and a significant increase in squad player representation of Munster-based players in the Munster Reds senior side.
Speaking about the improvements, Richard Holdsworth, High Performance Director for Cricket Ireland, said:
“It is widely acknowledged that more cricket is needed and there is a burning desire for more rounds of both white-ball formats to be played, as well as eventually returning to red-ball 3 or 4-day first class cricket.
“We consulted extensively across the sport – with the Inter-Provincial Structure Working Group, National Selectors, Senior Management Group, the Provincial Unions – resulting in proposals that our High Performance Committee strongly endorsed to the Board. The upshot is a new competition structure and financial support for the Provincial Unions that will take effect from the 2021 season.”
“This is an exciting day for domestic representative cricket across Ireland, as we start to move forward with some substantial reforms to the men’s game. A viable and sustainable inter-provincial structure feeding talent into the international set-up is crucial for the competitiveness of our senior side on the world stage.”
“The ‘best v best’ philosophy seeks to ensure we don’t have a host of talented players sitting on the side-lines, and that they are getting proper competitive cricket. Balancing this with the need to maintain a sense of regional identity was an important piece of these improvements – and will be one of the main components of ensuring that regional coaches are working closely with national coaches.”
“A key piece of this structural reform is the increased commitment to Munster Cricket’s player development pathway, and the introduction of a new formalised emerging team competition. Both of these moves demonstrate a collective endeavour between Cricket Ireland and Provincial Unions to nurture young talent and further enhance that pipeline of players into the national set-up.”
“The future investment in Munster aims to improve the identification and development of local talent. It is fair to say that current structures were not developing talent at the rate hoped for, so a renewed focus was agreed with Munster Cricket Union and we believe this will provide a boost to Munster-based cricket representation at senior levels in years to come.”
“In the meantime, we are giving the next cohort of Munster-based players the best chance to develop via the emerging competition so that we can fast-track local talent into the Munster squad as soon as they are ready.”