Wear It With Pride – Ryan Haire

In the first installment of the new ‘Wear It With Pride’ feature series here on JMSport, former Ireland international Ryan Haire discusses his life in cricket from boyhood club North Down right through to his time with the national side.

The idea behind ‘Wear It With Pride’ is to do a deep dive into a player’s career and the times that were most important and significant throughout their playing days, with certain episodes set to focus on the playing shirts that are most sentimental.

Haire has won nine league titles and seven Challenge Cup winners medals during his time with North Down to date and also picked up a Section One title with Muckamore.

Sit back, relax and enjoy this 4000 word feature with Haire, who talks about growing up at The Green, his move to Muckamore in 2015 and he speaks with honesty about his time with Ireland.


ryan haire
Ryan Haire batting in the 2007 Challenge Cup final. ©CricketEurope

What was it like growing up at North Down?

“It was super. It was all about cricket and there were a bunch of us that grew up with our fathers still playing. Thinking back now, we were all between 7-9 and we were all running round at the club from no height, but in terms of formalised cricket we played for the Under-11’s, our dads were playing and we were always around the club after the men played and before with our short pitch set-up.

“It was our playground. They always seemed like better summers back then and that was all summer long and you just always seemed to have a bat or ball in your hand. To develop those early skills, there is nothing better than just spending time playing the game in whatever form it is.

“Everyone encouraged each other. There was a group of about 12 of us around the same age and we always just seemed to spend the summers together playing, competing with other teams. Playing school cricket started at 11 for me at Regent House which made it even bigger again.

“That was the very early days. I can remember in 1995 North Down played in the Irish Cup final against Bready and it was a super crowd and sun-drenched. A gang of 20 of us sat at the side of the pitch and memories like that of watching Charlie and Paul McCrum.

“We always trained with the firsts even from an early age and there seemed to be more men at practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and everyone wanted to play up the teams and practiced hard. You were bowling against the likes of Charlie and Paul who were Irish internationals long-term and just lived cricket themselves.

“That really brought us on alongside some really good coaches. We had some really inspirational cricketers that we wanted to emulate. You need to see guys live or on the screen doing things you want to do, and I suppose it makes you want to try and practice harder.”

Progressing through the youth system and into the first team, what do you remember about breaking in to the senior team?

“There were a number of us who were in around that 1st/2nd XI. I played my first 1st XI match from memory when I was 14 and it was alongside Charlie and Paul and my dad might have been captain of the team.

“We were short and I can remember only playing a handful of games around that period. I got a bowl and I don’t know if the scorebook has it in black and white, but I got 7/20-odd against Bangor in Section One which was the top league then. I was bowling leg-spin so I must have landed a few and bamboozled a couple of guys!

“Leg-spin isn’t something you see very much of in local cricket and that came from watching Shane Warne on TV.”

Were you nervous going into 1st XI cricket at that age?

“I suppose I didn’t really know any different. It was just a chucked in at the deep end sort of thing and from there I played half the matches in the next season and into the team full-time at either 16 or 17.

“They were the early memories playing alongside those days. Either sitting watching them or on the same field as them. They inspired you to try and emulate their feats.

“I was also playing a lot of youth cricket. Alongside that, we were playing schools cricket. Andrew White is the same age and we were right up through school winning cups at 12-14 age groups and then up to medallion and Schools Cup – we seemed to be unbeaten the whole way through with a great side.

“We won the Graham Cup at North Down for the first time in years in 1995. That was a big day out and we all met up for breakfast and had our school shirts and North Down ties on. Those sort of things are the real drivers for young lads and it keeps you for life.”

The team you were part of was so dominant in the NCU. Why do you think that was?

“Back when that started, we were relegated in 1997 from Section One. We were mainly a young team and there were quite a few of us around 16 or 17. A guy called Michael Quinn was captain and we were unlucky to be relegated that year.

“We came back the next year and won the league in 1998. From then on in that decade we won seven out of 10 leagues. A couple of guys said that relegation can do you well and you can bounce back. We all wanted to play and enjoyed playing together. I suppose it was like the Waringstown side five or so years ago where you had guys in early-20’s coming through who enjoyed each others company, practiced hard and did well.

“Back in the early-2000’s there were no overseas guys. There were no Kiwis or Australian guys with Irish passports. You had your professional and that was it. Everyone else was local and in a real local sense. We had guys like David Kennedy from Ballymena wanting to come and join North Down to win trophies. You were able to attract guys as well as having a core of dedicated guys and a top pro.

“We landed Taimur Khan who came in 1999 and stayed right through that period winning those leagues and Senior Cup’s. Unfortunately there is no Irish Cup to show for those years which is the real shame looking back now. You had the likes of Trent Johnston, Jeremy Bray, Andre Botha who had joined North County and they were winning Irish Cup’s.

“There were strong teams in Leinster and they had a scattering of Irish passport holders to come up against. We were unlucky and we didn’t even make a final.

“Those local years of success was built on four or five guys coming through and I can’t underestimate the impact of Taimur. He was a Pakistan A international and was picked to captain that team one year in the early-2000s when he was with us. He bowled at good pace moving the ball both ways and scored runs at a canter. He was the best pro by a mile and was back year after year, whereas other clubs were bringing guys in and out.”

North Down – 2005 Challenge Cup champions. ©CricketEurope

Having the time to sit back and think about it, how special was that period playing with family members and winning trophies?

“My brother was at North Down and my dad was in that team in the 2000’s still playing and it was great. It was good to be around guys you grew up with.

“Sometimes it can be awkward playing with family members I have to say! I remember for example in the early-2000’s that my dad was at Downpatrick playing for a year and he came back mid-season with Billy Adams. They came back and I was off the team all of a sudden and we got to the semi-final of the cup. It just shows you that it isn’t always sweetness and light!

“They are special memories and it was very enjoyable. It was always for me a hobby and it makes me laugh a bit when guys talk about ‘careers’ in local cricket. It was always a hobby, always fun and I think that element has always stayed with me and allowed me to keep playing.

“I’m 38 now and the fun is still there for me now which is great. It hasn’t gone away and I’m always looking forward to the new season so long may that continue.”

MUCKAMORE (2015-2017)

Haire bowling for Muckamore in 2017. ©CricketEurope

Did you fancy a new challenge when you moved to Muckamore?

“I had been involved in the youth set-up with North Down from the age of 18 as a coach. Back in 2001 I got my coaching qualification. North Down were struggling for youth teams so I restructured and got Under-13 and Under-15 teams back.

“We actually won the All-Ireland in the mid-2000’s at Under-13 then the same bunch with the likes of Peter Eakin and Alistair Shields won the U-15 title. That group were similar to the one we had back at our age group.

“I always enjoyed the coaching side of it. North Down made a decision over the winter that they weren’t going to remunerate. It was a big thing for me in the summer and I coached around other clubs as well.

“Muckamore said they wanted me to come and do some coaching with them and I started doing that and they said it would be great to have me there long-term so if I was interested in playing there too. I got chatting to them and fancied the challenge.

“They were in Section One and looking to get up. They are an ambitious club and they are very passionate. They are similar to North Down in the sense they are a non-Belfast club out of the city who are passionate about the game and looking to promote it in their city and around schools.

“I helped with their restructuring of the youth and development. We brought in some grant funding and I played and coached there for three really enjoyable seasons. We got back up and managed to stay up which had been Muckamore’s problem.

“For me, it was mission accomplished and I was only there for the three seasons. Even from the start, I told them that I wanted to go back and play at North Down before I stopped playing. It was a matter of time and I wanted to go back to play on the 1sts. I didn’t want to be totally past it. I wanted to contribute and win something.

“It was a no brainer to come back with living five minutes from the ground and having a young family. Thankfully, the guys have been very welcoming of me back to my home club and there’s been no animosity. It’s went very well and I’ve settled back in to helping with coaching and playing.”

Would you look back at that period with Muckamore as a success?

“I definitely would. I was coaching twice a week going straight from work and working with guys for a couple of guys before senior practice. Sam Gordon, Aditya Adey and Jamie Magowan – guys who had real talent but were maybe thinking about where they could go with the game.

“I said to them that they’ve got a chance to make a go at cricket that I didn’t have. It’s now professional and you can make something playing for the Knights now. Bringing those guys through and them playing a part of getting back to the Premier League, where you need to be to develop as a cricketer, was great for them and the club.

“We progressed off the field too with some local grant funding and getting into local schools. There were a few programmes that got their youth up and running and now their youth from what I hear is very strong. They’ve taken that to a new level now.

“I suppose that was the whole package of what the guys contacted me about and it’s great to hear that it’s bearing fruit now.

“They were very unfortunate to go down this year. With a better professional they would have stayed up. You need to get the best guy you can afford and he will keep you up. The rest you can sort out and their choice in the last few years probably hasn’t been as clever.

“Hopefully they can get back up to the Premier League because they are a great club and are very passionate.”

From a playing perspective, was it difficult going from winning trophies and Premier League cricket to Section One?

“It wasn’t too difficult. Everyone says there is a massive gulf in standard but almost every team had an overseas player from what I can remember.

“We played in the Irish Cup for a couple of years and did rightly. I remember beating Coleraine who had won the North West league the year before and us winning a couple of T20’s and winning the league to get back up.

“The pitches were the main difference. Going from decent batting wickets to completely bowler friendly wickets certainly didn’t help any of us, but we had a decent bowling side and personally I enjoyed bowling a lot more than I had in the previous five or six years before that.

“Getting some runs and wickets was still really enjoyable at that standard and I always said to the guys that it’s a battle every week because you aren’t just battling with your opposition but with conditions in that league. You’re not turning up to a road and probably need to be better prepared than you are at The Lawn or North Down where you know there’ll be runs scored.

“I enjoyed that side of it and it balanced out the difference in playing standard and filled that void. It’s all about how you approach it. You have to want to be there and have to want to play.

“You could have very easily threw your head up and blamed this and that, but it was just about winning at the end of the day and we got back up eventually. We lost our professional Avdoot six games into the season in the first year and we would have got back up with his runs then.”


Haire bowling for North Down in 2018. ©CricketEurope

It sounds like going back to North Down was always the plan. Why then (in 2018) and what were the reasons behind it?

“I was around the club over that winter and I told Muckamore I would be there for the three seasons and that I always wanted to go back and play on the 1s at North Down while I could.

“I didn’t want to go back as a 2nds player or to hobble around the pitch. I wanted to try and contribute and I chatted to Alistair Shields who was taking on the captaincy and he thought I could contribute, so that was enough for me.

“Personally, I live so close to the ground and I was still keen to train and stay fit during the week so getting to training was a lot easier. With the kids now, it made sense just to be closer to home I suppose.

“I intend to play as much as I can next season and hopefully we can do something because I this side now with a good professional in Ruhan who has had a good few seasons is probably at their peak.

“I can’t see the guys improving much so it’s all about application and next season is our year to make the most of it. It’s a lot harder now and all the other clubs recruit and bring players in. It’s a lot more competitive but that makes it even more enjoyable when you roll over a so called ‘bigger’ side.

“That competitive element is still there which helps week on week to get you to training and keep you playing.”

IRELAND (capped seven times)

Ryan Haire boundary
Haire batting for Ireland Credit: CricketEurope

Was going on to play for Ireland always an aim for you?

“It was. I always wanted to even back as a teenager growing up when cricket wasn’t a career. I knew of very few guys coming out of the Ireland U19 side that I played in that wanted to or did go across the water to get trials.

“The guys that did played well and got County contracts and were off into the sunset. The likes of William Porterfield but I suppose I was the generation just before that. Some of the guys were lucky enough and got contracts but I suppose the structure and format wasn’t there.

“That’s not making excuses personally for myself, but guys with exceptional talent were signposted and others that could maybe improve there wasn’t a structure in place to help them improve.

“For me personally, it was about going to university and working. I had two or three part-time jobs to fund university and have a roof over my head, so that’s what it was all about.

“I stayed on and trained with the squads ahead of the first World Cup in 2003 so I was in and around the side after making my debut following the U19 World Cup playing for Ireland. I was around for a few years and in training squads but even training back then was sporadic.

“It didn’t have the structure and format of the winter programme now. I found myself driving to Dublin to throw tennis balls for three or four months in the middle of winter on Sundays and I have to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it. Other guys could enjoy it and stick it out but I couldn’t. I needed to work on Sunday’s.

“There was no pay so it wasn’t as if you were there getting a salary. Very quickly I exited the scene after playing a few games. I only came back and played a couple of games when I was employed by Cricket Ireland in 2008 when half the team was missing and they needed someone to go to Scotland.

“That’s the snapshot of my international career if you want to call it that. I do regret not sticking with it a bit more.

“I was a scholar at the university and myself and Andrew White did training sessions and fitness training. It just didn’t work out. I knew Jeremy Bray, Andre Botha and Trent Johnston would be in the XI for the 2003 World Cup and you feel like a bit-part of the training sessions.

“I was in my early-twenties so could have stuck with it but it was a fine line for me and I needed to earn money and get a job. That very quickly swayed my opinion unfortunately.

“You never know what could have happened or what could have been, but that’s for another day.”

What do you remember about making your debut and how special was that moment?

“I remember I played up at Eglinton against the MCC. It was a damp day and they were a touring side full of ex-County players and Ireland always played them.

“I can remember John Wright, who was a great guy and was Irish Cricket Union president and managed the team back before Roy Torrens I think. John gave me a call that I was playing and I think it was a Sunday game and said they’d love me to play for Ireland.

“It was brilliant. I was made up to do it. I felt like a little boy walking into the changing room and you have guys like Angus Dunlop, Kyle (McCallan) was in the team already, a young guy himself and a lot of other guys who had senior caps and experience.

“The only downside for me was that I got 30* and then the rain came when I was going rightly and eyeing up a fifty! That’s the way the game goes and you can’t have everything. Making the debut was enough.

“It was just a great experience to get that cap. I had grown up with Ulster Schools, Ireland Schools, Ireland Under-15 to Under-19 and all these age groups in preparation for it. I went to the U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2000 which was a real experience for us.

“It was just fantastic to make my debut and it was the culmination of all those youth squads and those Sunday training sessions. It was a great experience and day.”

When you came back into the squad in 2008 you got a half-century against Scotland. Did that ever make you think about having another crack at it?

“We played a tri-series with Scotland and New Zealand at Aberdeen. From memory William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien were missing, and there were three or four guys who were regulars not involved.

“I got a call while I was working in the cricket office at Stormont, we had just moved there working as a development manager for the NICA (Northern Ireland Cricket Association) and then Cricket Ireland came into existence. They said they were short and if I would be interested in going the following week with the team.

“It took me by surprise and I asked who they had asked to play and they gave me a list of guys and I said OK. I went over to do a training session a day or two before it and I really enjoyed the buzz and atmosphere.

“It was enjoyable. I got a few runs against Scotland. I remember batting with Andrew White and Andrew Poynter and the guys were saying I was going well. I just played it as if it was a club game and not allow it to go to my head. I didn’t try to over-complicate things,

“I really enjoyed that knock against Scotland but New Zealand’s bowling was on a different level. I remember facing Jacob Oram and the ball coming up past my gloves and off the seam a few times and thinking I was going to really struggle.

“It was a brilliant experience and the team were going to Holland for an Inter-Continental Cup match the following week or week after that and I didn’t get any leave off work to go with Ireland.

“I was 27 at the time and knew I wasn’t going to be a regular in any team. I had decided before getting the call that I had no ambitions for Ireland. I wasn’t training with the squad over the winter. Inter-Provincial cricket obviously wasn’t there so you were straight out of a club match and onto the pitch for Ireland. I just knew it wasn’t a goer.

“That was that basically. I couldn’t get away for the next game and the rest is history. I didn’t get a call or invite to any squad again. There was a coach change around the end of that season as well and that was the end of that.”

When doing some research for this, I see a couple of things that suggested you preferred club cricket over international cricket and you’d give that precedence. Is that true?

“No I wouldn’t say that’s true. Any time I was asked to play or invited to join a squad I did. I had gone right through those youth squads and into the senior side, so i think that line or opinion comes from me saying I know I’m not going to make this team so I need to get a job and get a roof over my head.

“I remember staying on guys sofas when I was a student and it wasn’t fun. There wasn’t the support at that age and someone to say just go and train and do your best. It was an easy choice to opt out of those early Sunday mornings when you know you’re not getting into any team and you want to go and work.

“That’s probably where that comes from. Club cricket is on a Saturday and you’re always going to play that.

“Back then, there was no remuneration for your time and it was a lot easier to say I can’t go because I’m working.

“Now would be a different story from what I know now and seeing how cricket is. Players can make it now if they try, have the dedication and talent to stick with it. I always encourage young guys to stick with it. It was just a different era.

Very few people get to play for Ireland so I suppose you just look back at that period with immense pride to get that far?

“Very much so. I was very proud to do it and proud of myself also in 2008 to say yes. It’s like when a second or thirds player steps up to pull a team out of a hole – it felt like that funnily when they guys said they needed me to play.

“I could have easily said I don’t fancy going to Aberdeen and to try someone else, but I thought I may as well go and see what it’s like. I was really proud to score runs against Scotland that day.

“It felt good being out in the middle. It was a lovely pitch and place to play. It was great to be around the Irish guys and see the change those few years later from when I made my debut when we hardly did a warm-up never mind train two days before.

“It was great to see how Irish cricket had come on from the World Cup. I have no regrets in terms of that and I’m proud to have got on the pitch with an Irish jersey.”

Armagh sign Alexander Kok as overseas professional

Armagh have announced the signing of South African Alexander Kok as their overseas professional for the 2020 Section One season.

Kok will replace Rohit Karanjkar at The Mall next season, with the 21-year-old used to batting in the top order mixed with handy off-spin.

Karanjkar scored 453 runs in his only season with Armagh at an average of 32.36 and picked up 23 wickets in total.

Kok currently plays for Delfos CC in the Gauteng Premier League and at Provincial level for Mpumalanga, who he recently represented at the CSA Provincial T20 Cup.

In those three matches, he scored 65 runs with a high score of 46 against Limpopo from 23 deliveries.

He currently averages 100 throughout the 2019-20 season in South Africa with a high score of 117* and has collected 15 wickets at an average of 12.53.

Kok is in the process of completing his Cricket South Africa Level 1 coaching qualification, so should be able to help the next generation of stars at Armagh progress and improve.

Armagh previously had a South African professional in 2018 in the shape of Shadley van Schalkwyk, and captain Matthew Steenson, who is set to continue for a sixth year at the helm, is looking forward to welcoming Kok to the club.

“Rohit had a good year, put in some match-winning performances and was a great guy. We wish him all the best,” he said.

“The club decided to go down a different route this year. Alexander is mad about cricket, mad to coach and is really keen to push on.

“I think he is going to bring a really positive attitude to the club and hopefully everyone buys into him and the way he plays cricket.

“We have his statistics and he’s obviously very talented. He’s a top order bat and bowls off-spin, so that isn’t going to go too far wrong in the NCU leagues.

“By all means, he hits a big ball and hopefully he will fit into our side. Jamie Rogers is coming back in to open the batting and he will fit in nicely.”

Armagh finished 7th in Section One last season following their relegation from the Robinson Services Premier League.

North West and Leinster sides confirm overseas professionals

Both Donemana and Clontarf have their overseas professionals for the 2020 season.

North West outfit Donemana will be bolstered by the addition of South African Ferisco Adams while Leinster’s Clontarf have signed former Fox Lodge professional Marco Marais.

Adams has spent one season overseas with that coming in 2015 during a stint at Cherry Tree CC in the Lancashire League where he scored 706 runs at an average of 44.13.

A batting all-rounder, the 30-year-old currently plays for Boland in his homeland and has competed in 37 First Class matches, hitting 1747 runs at an average of 30.12 and high score of 149.

He has also picked up 108 First Class wickets with his pace bowling at an average of 25.31.

Marais will be well-known to Irish cricket supporters after spending both the 2015 and 2016 campaigns with Fox Lodge.

The South African had a lot of success in the North West, scoring 1336 runs at an average of 78 in his first season before following it up with 916 runs and average of 70.46 in 2016.

He joined ECB Southern Premier League side Alton CC for the 2018 season but his time in Hampshire was cut short due to injury, leaving after 12 innings where he scored 393 runs.

The 26-year-old, who plays for Eastern Province, scored the fastest triple century in First Class history back in November 2017 when he reached 300* from 191 balls, which included 35 fours and 13 sixes.

Both players have been placed by agency WSX Cricket.

Instonians coach receives prestigious award

Instonians youth coach Steven Crothers was awarded with a Volunteers in Sport Award at Tuesday’s annual Federation of Irish Sport’s ceremony at Farmleigh House in Phoenix Park.

For the past 12 years, Crothers has played a significant role in the development of the youth section at Instonians, helping to bring through many first team members that have gone on to receive international or inter-provincial honours at a variety of levels.

The 2019 season was a special one for the youth section at Shaws Bridge, with the Under-15’s winning the Graham Cup and All-Ireland, the Under-13’s won both the Banoge Cup and All-Ireland title while the Under-11’s reached the All-Ireland final after winning their league and Quoile Cup.

Instonians haven’t been shy in giving opportunities to their young players in the first team, with Oliver Metcalfe opening the batting now for the past two seasons while the likes of James Hunter, James Metcalfe and Ben Rose are all established in the team.

Crothers has also worked in a variety of roles, and the award comes as just rewards for the hard work put in over the years.

“Steven has held roles including coaching, social media manager, youth convenor and regional coach for his club Instonians,” read the citation.

“He devotes a huge number of hours to coach cricket and nurture the upcoming youth talent at the club. He is passionate about boys and girls participating and enjoying the sport regardless of ability or experience.

“Steven coaches more than cricket, he teaches the kids life skills – confidence, resilience, being part of a team, trust. He is definitely a role model and encourages the kids to try new things, take risks, and engage in multiple sports.

“With Steven’s approach, he has developed great loyalty with the parents and this in turn has helped drive the family and community element of the club.”

Not resting on their laurels and success, Instonians will also have winter academies as noted by the Federation of Irish Sport.

“Steven has also set up a winter Cricket Academy at Under-11 and Under- 13 age groups, aimed at the Performance-level cricketers to further develop their skills, and we have record numbers on regional squads currently,” it continued.

“The winter sessions play a big part in this. Professional coaches and players have also been engaged by Steven to make this a fantastic experience.”

How are the 2020 overseas professionals playing?

It’s time for our second check-in with the overseas professionals that will be plying their trade in the Robinson Services Premier League next season.

Six clubs have confirmed their overseas professional for the 2020 campaign – Lisburn, Waringstown, Woodvale, Carrickfergus, Instonians and North Down.

Four of those have players currently competing in either South Africa or India, so lets take a look at how they are getting on.

Pat Botha – Woodvale

Woodvale moved early to bring in Pat Botha as overseas professional for their first top-flight campaign in a decade, and they will be delighted to see how he is playing for Free State.

Botha, who spent three seasons with Carrickfergus, has been on absolute fire with the bat, scoring 191 against Boland on November 7 in a First Class fixture.

Batting at number four in a three-day game. captain Botha scored his runs from 196 deliveries and put on a stand of 209 for the third wicket with Paballo Mogoera (152) as Free State won by an innings and 281 runs.

The 29-year-old followed that score up with 57 three days later against the same opposition and he has also registered another century (106*) and two half-centuries since the start of October.

Pat Botha. ©CricketEurope

Shadley van Schalkwyk – Waringstown

Van Schalkwyk will be returning to the NCU for his second campaign in 2020 after Waringstown announced the South African, who was at Armagh in 2018, would be replacing Haseeb Azam.

The 31-year-old plays for the same Free State outfit as Botha, and while his team-mate has been dominating with the bat, van Schalkwyk has been impressing with the ball.

Possessing fiery pace with the new ball, van Schalkwyk picked up figures of 5/25 against Boland on Sunday and also picked up another five-wicket haul in a List A fixture against Western Province in October, which included the scalp of CSNI’s overseas professional Andre Malan.

Van Schalkwyk has chipped in with runs along the way too, hitting 38 against KwaZulu-Natal in September and 29 against Boland last weekend.

Shadley van Schalkwyk. ©CricketEurope

Faiz Fazal – Lisburn

Fazal has been busy playing (and captaining) for Vidarbha in India and has contested over 10 matches since the start of October.

The Indian international impressed in his first campaign in the NCU with Lisburn in 2019, averaging over 50 and he has shown yet again his ability back in his homeland.

In a T20 fixture against Tripura at Thiruvananthapuram, Fazal hit 54 from 40 deliveries at the top of the order as he led his side to a comfortable nine-wicket triumph in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy group game.

Fazal also registered another half-century (58) in a seven-wicket Vijay Hazare Trophy win over Baroda on October 15, with Indian internationals Yusuf Pathan and Krunal Pandya on the opposing side.

faiz fazal
Fazal batting for Lisburn. ©CricketEurope

Jacques Snyman – Carrickfergus

Only Andre Malan scored more runs than Jacques Snyman during the 2019 season and he has continued that vein of form for Northern Cape.

Since the last time we checked in with Snyman, the explosive batsman has scored two massive centuries in the space of a week against KwaZulu-Natal and Northerns at Kimberley.

After hitting 111* from 73 deliveries batting at number three (11 fours, 7 sixes) in a nine-wicket win over KwaZulu-Natal on November 3, the 25-year-old went even bigger on Sunday, smashing 135 from 124 balls (14 fours and 5 sixes) in another win for a side that also includes Obus Pienaar.

As if that wasn’t enough, Snyman also picked up figures of 5/33 in the same match to cap off the perfect all-round performance.

Jacques Snyman. ©CricketEurope

How beneficial is a spell overseas for young players?

With the 2019 season in the books, some young Irish players have made the trip overseas to continue their development and gather more experience.

The likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are all popular destinations, with Carrickfergus trio Harry Warke, Max Burton and Robbie Moffett all plying their trade in New Zealand this winter.

From a wider Ireland perspective, highly-rated U19 captain Neil Rock has been playing First Grade cricket in Australia and his Rush team-mate Stephen Doheny is at Randwick Petersham.

Futura Sports Agency and Futura Cricket is a premier academy for developing young talent in South Africa and has a familiar face to many in the NCU leading the way.

Craig Yelverton, who enjoyed a spell as coach at North Down, is currently a director and Head Coach at Futura and has been working closely with Irish youth international Tim Tector in recent weeks.

Having gathered a lot of experience in both hemispheres, just how beneficial can it be for young Irish players to go abroad for a spell?

Tim Tector. ©CricketEurope

“There is massive benefit in a player applying his trade abroad,” said Yelverton.

“To experience something different, and challenging yourself in a different environment. We learn and grow as players and coaches through experiences that you will either gain from or learn from and that is exactly what going overseas and playing abroad is all about as a young player.

“It gives you an opportunity to experience different conditions and is a great life experience too.”

The immediate difference for any young player going abroad will be the warmer climate and different conditions in the Southern Hemisphere.

“First and foremost it will be getting use to the heat, training in 30+ degree weather is not easy even for us locals,” added Yelverton.

“So its first understanding how your body responds to training in that heat. You will fatigue much quicker when you aren’t used to it leading to concentration levels lowering.

“So to bowl longer spells, batting for longer periods and fielding become more challenging for players coming out to South Africa, especially as we head into the December to March periods as the humidity also plays a massive factor.

“Then a players need to understand a team can be multi-cultural so team dynamics can be very different sometimes so it is also adapting to this if they are here playing.

“There could be conversations going on in three different languages on the field which can be difficult to get ones head around.”

North Down reached two T20 Cup finals under Yelverton. ©CricketEurope

The hope of any young player going abroad will be that they can develop their game further and then bring those skills back to their home clubs.

As Yelverton explains, some players can really use the experience to bounce back from difficult seasons at home and develop at Futura.

“We see a change in their thinking and mindset the most and when you get that part right it becomes much easier for us to start making necessary adjustments to their fundamentals as they are open and receptive to the process of change,” he said.

“One example we have from the programme we had at the beginning of the year was a player who had a poor 2018 season in the UK scoring 340 runs at an average of 20. He returned to the UK in 2019 scoring 846 runs at an average of 44.53.

“We have had some outstanding results like the one mentioned from players who attend these camps and we always aim to stay in touch with these players and help develop their careers.”

A productive winter period in a different environment can undoubtedly set those young players involved up for a big season back at home, and there are some recent examples of that with the likes of James McCollum returning from stints in Australia to become an established international star.

Adjusting to varying conditions and demands can only make a player better in the long run, and Yelverton believes the impact can be immediate in their home campaigns if they are willing to put the work in.

James McCollum batting for Ireland. ©CricketEurope

“In a way yes I think it does as it really gives the cricketers a better understanding about who they are as players,” he added.

“However it all depends on the effort the player is putting in wherever they are to learn. Being adaptable is one the challenges a player faces when they play in different conditions and adapting their game to suit different conditions is important.

“Playing against different opposition also opens you up to different bowlers and batters and how they play the game. If a player can come over and be receptive and learn from how players have been successful in those conditions and understand how to apply it to their cricket, they put themselves in a position to be successful when heading back home.

“I always say to players what makes batters who score runs or take wickets consistently in the league season in and season out? They always focus on what they do well and maximize those areas as often as they can, they work out conditions quickly and how to bat or bowl in them.

“This can only happen through experience so yes I do believe it can have a significant effect on a player’s season back home.”

Yelverton has long had a desire and enjoyment for helping players to improve, starting with his brother in their back garden right through to his current role at Futura.

Along the way he has spent time with the likes of Clifton College, Crusaders Cricket Club. Berea Rovers and also with North Down – a place where he made many good memories.

“North Down is a great club and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them,” he said.

“I have made some very good friends there and in the NCU in general and still keep in contact with many of them.

“It was great to see how well they did this past season and I know the great work that is being done behind the scenes to develop cricket there and I don’t think it will be long before there is silverware back at North Down.

“One thing I will say I enjoyed the most on a cricket perspective while coaching in the NCU was the passion and intensity every game has. I also enjoyed the odd Guinness!”

Based in Durban, Futura is a sporting agency that represents current Irish international cricketer Shane Getkate while also being involved in rugby, football and hockey.

“FSA is a sports management and coaching company,” explains Yelverton.

“Our High Performance camps is where we host both local and overseas players who come through to us to develop their game. We currently run two-week high performance camps in Durban.

“FSA have been in the sports management business going on six years now and represent players locally and abroad from international cricket to amateur cricket.

“I have had great experiences coaching at FSA, it was FSA who afforded me the opportunity to head to Northern Ireland for the first time.

“My position is as Head Coach of the High Performance camps as well as working with our Prodigy to Pro Program which is our mentorship program for young up and coming cricketers between the ages of 16-19 who are looking to take their cricket to a professional level.”

You can find Futura on Twitter (@Futurasportssa), Instagram (Futura Sports Agency and Futura Cricket), Facebook (Sports Agency and Futura Cricket), YouTube (Futura Cricket), LinkedIn (Futura Sports Agency) and their website (https://futurasportsagency.com/)

Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson reflects on World Cup qualification

Ireland will take their place at the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia next October after securing a spot at the tournament through the recent qualifying competition in the UAE.

Finishing top of Group B ahead of Oman, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria, the Irish eventually finished third in the qualifying tournament that was won by the Netherlands.

It was very much a case of mission accomplished as Gary Wilson’s side picked up four wins in their six group matches to secure an automatic spot at the showpiece event next year.

Although their main goal of winning the whole competition didn’t come to fruition, Wilson is just pleased his side progressed.

“We went there wanting to win the competition, so firstly it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to do that,” he said.

“Having been so used to playing those qualifying tournaments and particularly in the UAE, we have always had a good record there. In years gone by you could have penciled us in for a final spot at least, so to not do that is disappointing.

“I don’t want to harp on about how inexperienced we are but the fact of the matter is we have a lot of young players and with inexperience comes performances being a bit up and down.

“I think you saw that throughout the competition with one day being very good and the next not so good. At the end of the day, we have qualified and it was job done.”

Gary Wilson guided Ireland to the T20 World Cup. ©CricketEurope

Their reward for getting through the qualifying process is a spot in Group A in the first round alongside Sri Lanka, Oman and Papua New Guinea, with the top two then entering the Super 12 stage where the world’s elite will await.

It was no cakewalk for Ireland in the Middle East, suffering losses to the UAE and Canada before topping the group.

“It was definitely the strongest qualifying tournament I’ve played in,” added Wilson.

“I’m not just talking about the other teams that qualified, but right the way down from 1-14. Obviously it was Nigeria’s first attempt at the qualifiers so they didn’t have the strength that the other teams had.

“If you look at the teams that didn’t qualify, Singapore turned over Scotland, Jersey turned over Oman and Canada turned us over, so it was a very closely fought competition.

“It’s one with a lot of pressure and high stakes that it’s difficult to play with the freedom you’d usually get in a T20 match.

“Also, I think the wickets weren’t conducive to going in and clearing the ropes all the time. If you got 140, you were in the game and we had that in the back of our minds. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t seem to chase so well which is unusual for us because we have chased so well in the past.”

Paul Stirling was in fine form throughout the T20 qualifiers. ©CricketEurope

This was the culmination of a busy 2019 for Ireland’s T20 side, who also won a Tri-Series involving Scotland and the Netherlands in Dublin before flying to Oman for another warm-up competition ahead of the qualifiers.

Undoubtedly a tense and unforgiving schedule, those sort of experiences will surely bring the group closer together and Wilson says everyone was looking out for each other.

“It’s been really intense,” he said.

“I think those two series were really good for us before the qualifiers and it allowed us to get what we felt was our strongest side. Some people really stuck their hands up going into the qualifiers, so although it was intense it was definitely needed.

“I said at the start that we needed to get around each other, especially if things weren’t going well and really look after each other over the next six weeks because a qualifying tournament is intense.

“People can get worried about qualification and external factors, so it was just important we stuck together. I think we did that throughout the tournament.

“Some results went our way but I don’t think you can top a group without deserving too over a six game period.

“Although it was on run-rate, I think we deserved to go through in the first place and unfortunately we ran into a very strong Netherlands side in the semi-final.”

It was a real team effort that got Ireland over the line, with all 15 players originally named in the qualifying squad playing at least one game.

craig young
Craig Young picked up best international figures in the UAE. ©CricketEurope

The starting XI was fairly settled with slight adjustments made for different matches, but Wilson feels the squad is now at a place where everyone has the capability to produce big performances.

“I said right the way through that we were really happy with the bench,” he added.

“It was the first time in a long time that we felt anyone could play and could have a good claim to play. It was a real plus to be able to call on guys.

“Simi (Singh) came in and got man of the match in the final game and showed what he can do. Lorcan Tucker was unlucky – he could have played in a couple of games as a batter for sure. The guys attitude throughout the tournament was first class.”

Mark Adair was arguably the star of Ireland’s campaign alongside Paul Stirling, with the 23-year-old all-rounder picking up 12 wickets throughout the competition to bring his 2019 tally to 48 from 27 matches.

That is more than any other Irish player this year, beating out Boyd Rankin by one, and it has been a whirlwind six months for the Northern Knights man who only made his international debut in May.

“I’m really pleased for him,” said Wilson.

Mark Adair had quite the year. ©CricketEurope

“He has came in and really put his hand up and his attitude has been first class since he came into the squad. It’s great to see someone new coming into the squad doing so well.

“Him, Gareth Delany, David Delany, Harry Tector – those are all young guys that will benefit so much from this.

“While they don’t have the experience right now, I really think in one, two or three years time you’ll have a seriously experienced and therefore good team. You will really see the rewards of playing these guys now.

“They are doing it at the minute, and Mark did it in almost every game which is incredible for someone of his age.

“It’s just about getting more consistent for those guys and once that happens, adding to the consistency of other guys around them, we will have a really good team.”

Skipper Wilson came in for criticism throughout a large majority of the past couple of months, with many calling for him to be dropped from the side.

In 2019, he averaged 14.24 across all formats but he is more than confident that he will be able to turn that around.

Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson. ©CricketEurope

“Criticism is part of it,” he said.

“I try not to read too much and certainly don’t go looking for it, but when you get tagged in something on Twitter it’s difficult to avoid.

“I give my best and I’m aware I didn’t score the runs I wanted to this year. I give my best in all areas of the game whether that’s leadership or runs, and I’m very confident that I’ll be able to turn my own form around.

“Although I don’t think I’m playing particularly badly, sometimes in T20 cricket things can go very quickly and I feel like I’m hitting the ball well in the nets.

“I have a good period of six or seven weeks now to work on some aspects of my game before the West Indies and I’m confident I can get some runs there. I don’t think you’re ever as good or bad as people say you are.

“Criticism is part of it and all I can do when I get the opportunity is give my best both from captaincy and playing point of view.

“I feel we have brought the team forward in terms of T20 cricket in the past 18 months, so that’s pleasing.”

Ireland have a jam-packed 2020 schedule starting in January with six matches against the West Indies (three ODI, three T20) before further away tours against Sri Lanka (one Test match), Afghanistan (one Test and three T20s) and Zimbabwe (one Test and five T20’s).

Graham Ford’s side will have played at least four Test’s, 12 ODI’s and 22 T20 matches before the T20 World Cup rolls around on October 18 and Wilson is excited about the year ahead.

“The ODI’s start in the first or second week of January and then it’s on to the T20’s,” he added.

“We go from there to Sri Lanka, India and Zimbabwe before we have any home series. I’m looking forward to it and it’s always a great privilege getting to play for Ireland, so it’ll be no different in January.”