As featured on AllOutCricket.com
Chris Airey chats to big Boyd Rankin: a titan for Ireland and possible England giant.
Irish cricket has come a long way over the last 10 years, developing quality young players including Eoin Morgan, and competing well in World Cups, including that shock win over neighbours England in 2011. But while Kevin O’Brien stole the headlines, another young Irishman grabbed the attention of the English hierarchy. And after claiming over 50 wickets for Warwickshire in 2011, Boyd Rankin once again caught the eye of the England set-up and was selected to travel on his first tour with the Lions this winter.
The English seam bowling attack may not be lacking tall fast bowlers, but now 6ft 8in Rankin, who grew up in Derry, has his eyes firmly set on a Test cricket career. But to achieve this he must emulate the likes of Ed Joyce and Morgan who changed their allegiances to the Three Lions.
“My first aim at the minute is to play Test cricket with England,” Rankin said. “That is what I am focused on at the minute, but obviously I still play for Ireland when I can. I have grown up playing with them and I want to continue to play with them to try and get them to be where they want to be and that is to play Test cricket one day.”
Rankin’s trip to the subcontinent with the Lions this winter was prematurely cut short. He had toured Bangladesh before while on duty for Ireland, but only played one game for the Lions before a minor thigh strain meant he had to fly back to Birmingham to begin rehabilitation work. But despite not claiming a wicket, he felt positive about his performance.
“It was an experience out there,” he added. “I have been working hard over the winter with my variations and trying to get more consistent, I only played that one game but I felt that I bowled well seeing as it was the first one day game I had played for five months.
“Overall it was a great experience to play with the Lions – it was hard being away from home, it is different being out there than playing for the Lions at home, but it was a really good squad to be around. I had a great time even though it was cut short by injury. I learnt a lot about playing in the subcontinent – any chance you can get to play in those conditions is a great opportunity and will make you a better player. I showed them what I can do and hopefully I can get a few more games with them in the summer.”
Rankin competed in the first ever ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI game against England in Dubai, and he certainly did not look out of place, scoring 43 in the first innings and claiming three wickets in the match, those of Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and fellow Irishman Morgan. But that sometimes makes things difficult with his Warwickshire teammate, and Ireland captain William Porterfield.
“We have been living together for the last year or so and it is quite difficult as he is always pushing me to play for Ireland,” Rankin said. “But at the minute I want to try and push myself into the Test team and the only way I can do that is continuing to work hard and play well for Warwickshire in the Championship.”
“Any year you get over 50 wickets is a good year for a bowler, it was my first full-season injury free, and before that I have always had a few injuries here and there and missed a few games so it was nice to get a full season under my belt. It has taken me a few years to get used to my body. Before the World Cup I did a bit of gym work, but a couple of years before that I didn’t even know what a gym was. I have learned a lot over the last three or four years at Warwickshire.”
Rankin is now preparing for the start of the season when the Bears welcome Somerset to Edgbaston in the LV= County Championship on April 12. “Hopefully we will be pushing for the Championship with this team. We got pretty close last year, so we really want to go that one step further this year. I hope to take as many wickets as I can, that’s all I am trying to focus on, I am not looking too far into the future, I am just going to take each month as it comes, do the best I can and hopefully that will be good enough to be able to do as well as I did last year.”
Rankin is hoping that another good season with the Bears will bring his dream of Test cricket just that little bit closer.