By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
Ireland’s T20 captain Gary Wilson is looking forward to the start of the Inter-Pros this month, and a huge summer of International cricket, after missing the recent winter series against Afghanistan in India.
I caught up with the former Surrey and Derbyshire wicket-keeper at Cricket Ireland’s launch of the International season in the Law Society of Ireland in Dublin last week to talk about the season ahead.
Wilson 33, is returning to playing after seeing a specialist for an eye condition, and he expects to be back firing on all cylinders for the Northern Knights when they face both the North West Warriors and Leinster Lightning in their opening IP50 fixtures in La Manga, Spain.
Wilson said, “Yeah, hopefully I’ll be fully fit for the first game of the season for the Northern Knights on the 24th of this month – really looking forward to that – that’s the aim anyway. I can’t wait to get started. I’ve been out for the last four months or so, so hopefully now, fingers crossed I’ll be right for the first game and then take it from there.”
Wilson was confirmed as the new captain of the Knights for 2019 that morning, taking over the reigns from his fellow International James Shannon.
When I asked him about the captaincy, his face lit up, and you could tell straight away how proud he was, “Growing up, I’m pretty passionate about cricket in the area, and playing for the NCU – obviously playing for Ireland as well – A lot of great players have played for the NCU in the past so I was only too delighted when Simon (Johnston) asked me to do it,” said Wilson.
Following Ireland’s ascendancy to Test Cricket Irish Players are deemed as overseas players, so after 11 years playing in England, 9 of those for Surrey, Wilson left Derbyshire to return home to Belfast.
It’s a decision the Dundonald man says he’s happy with, “Yeah. Look obviously you can’t play any cricket in England anymore as an Irish player, as a local. It’s nice to be back in Belfast where my family’s from. I’ve still got family here and I’m delighted to be back.”
“On the one hand it is disappointing, but on the other hand you know, Cricket Ireland have now got to produce and sustain their own players, which I think is a great thing for Irish Cricket. We have to stand on our own two feet.”
“We made the decision to get ICC full membership, I think it was always going to be that way. It sets a different challenge. Obviously in the past we’ve been able to let players go to England, now we’ve got to have a system in place here where we’re constantly producing and sustaining our own cricketers,” continued Wilson.
Looking ahead, I asked him if it would be a good idea to have another couple of teams in the Inter-Pros. Wilson said, “It’s a hard one, because you don’t want to dilute the competition, you don’t want to dilute the talent. Ideally, yeah maybe one more team, or certainly another round of fixtures. The more cricket we can get the better.”
He continued, “I think England maybe play a little bit too much cricket in the First-class structure. It’s full-on, 14 Country Championship games, 14 20/20 games and 8 one-day games each season, it’s a lot of cricket. If you’re playing all three forms of the game, you’re playing a lot of cricket for maybe five days a week. That’s very tough on the body. I think maybe somewhere in between the two, between what we’ve got and what they’ve got would be probably the optimum amount. Probably closer to what they’ve got, but we’ve got a smaller pool of players and you don’t want to dilute that. We have to start somewhere, I think from where the Inter-Pros were 2-3 years ago, they’ve come a long way. In 3 or 4 years time I think you’ll see a different structure.”
In a few weeks time Wilson and his team-mates will welcome neighbours England to Malahide in a One-Day International, before heading across the water in late July for an historic 4-day Test match at Lord’s. It’s something Wilson is relishing, “Anytime you play England it’s a great occasion. Both sets of passionate fans, I’m sure they’ll both be full-houses and it’s every Irish cricketers dream to play Test cricket at Lord’s. Everyone will be looking forward to that.”
Ireland will also play a Tri-Series with the West Indies and Bangladesh along with two ODI’s against Afghanistan and a 6-match series with Zimbabwe (3 ODI’s and 3 T20’s) in what will surely be an exciting summer of cricket in Ireland.
Photos courtesy of Cricket Ireland