‘Dream come true’ for a special Ireland well-wisher

Former India leg-spinner M. V. Narasimha Rao is proud of witnessing his wards play Test cricket for Ireland.

M. V. Narasimha Rao sports the special cap presented to him on the occasion of Ireland’s first ever Test in Malahide.   -  Special Arrangement

Former India leg-spinner M. V. Narasimha Rao, popularly known as Bobjee in cricketing circles, is a contended person after witnessing Ireland play its first ever Test against Pakistan in Malahide.

For him, the result didn’t matter. “This has been a dream come true for me ever since I was involved in the game in one way or the other over the last 25 years,” says Rao in a chat with Sportstar from Ireland after the team lost to Pakistan.

Bobjee takes pride in reminding that except for two players in the playing eleven, all the others were coached by him at one point in their career. They including the O’ Brien brothers (Kevin and Niall), captain William Porterfield, Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Boyd Rankin, Gary Wilson.

Read: Ireland open to Pakistan tour if 'stars align'

“Within two months of playing in Ireland when I first moved over from Hyderabad to play the game, I was into coaching and made it a point to the administrators that they will not make much headway unless the structure is changed and exposure assured to the young talent,” he recalls. “The whole endeavour should be to get ICC affiliation or else everything else will come to zero,” he told them.

“Luckily, with England not playing in the 1998 Commonwealth Games when cricket was included, Northern Ireland Cricket Association took part and even beat Bangladesh then,” says the former head coach who worked alongside former England pacer Mike Hendrick with the Ireland team.

‘Steady’ growth

“Fortunately, the growth has been steady. We lost narrowly to Scotland in the ICC 2007 World Cup qualifiers in a rain-affected match. Then, once Ed Joyce was picked by Middlesex in English county championship, the scenario changed dramatically,” says the Hyderabadi who started indoor cricket in 1991 in Ireland.

“Then, the big thing was when Ireland played in the World Cup (Under-19) in Sri Lanka in 2000,” he said. “Though geographically two major regions comprise Ireland, cricket and rugby are the only sport where a combined Ireland team is fielded in international competitions,” says 63-year-old Bobjee. “We struggled in the days when funding was a major problem. Now thanks to ICC Test status, everything comes to your doorstep,” he adds.

Entering the cricketing ‘elite’

What exactly is the takeaway from Ireland's first ever Test? “We have shown to the world that we belong to the elite by threatening to clinch a win itself by taking the match into the fifth day,” says a proud Bobjee.

Read: Porterfield confident of Ireland's place at Test table

“Kevin played a great matured, focussed knock. For someone better known as [a One-Day International] batsman, he was exceptional with his historic century,” he says.

“Certainly, we can beat some of the sides like Afghanistan, Bangladesh at home. But, the big test comes when we travel abroad,” he cautions. “Yes, the more we play Test cricket, the better will be the results for Ireland by way of experience. I am also [waiting] for the day when Irish cricketers play in the [Indian Premier League].” he says.

Bobjee takes pride in showing the ‘Test match special cap’ presented on the occasion to him. “This is one of my most priceless possessions,” he signs off.