x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

World Cup in 2007 ‘hard to beat’ for retiring Trent Johnston

The 39-year-old Ireland fast bowler looks back at a long career about to end on Friday after ICC Intercontinental Cup final against Afghanistan. Osman Samiuddin reports from Dubai.

The Australian-born Trent Johnston, centre, has claimed to be such a spent force that he has had to take help from his children to put on his socks. At 39, the fast bowler is eager to get into coaching. Satish Kumar / The National
The Australian-born Trent Johnston, centre, has claimed to be such a spent force that he has had to take help from his children to put on his socks. At 39, the fast bowler is eager to get into coaching. Satish Kumar / The National

On Friday, one final time, Trent Johnston will drag what always appeared to be a permanently battered body into the field for Ireland and with it hope to drag his side to yet another title.

Ireland are relatively well-placed against Afghanistan to seal a fourth Intercontinental Cup (I-Cup) title – the associate level’s premier long-form competition – and it would be a fitting way to say goodbye to one of the greatest players at this level.

Johnston, 39, made the decision in July this year. He said he was so spent, after a two-week tour, that he could put on his socks only with the help of his children.

Since then, he has been ticking off items on a sporting “bucket” list: help Ireland qualify for the 2015 50-over World Cup, help them qualify for the 2014 World Twenty20 and help them win the I-Cup again.

The first two are done, the last, almost. “It’s done. I’m very happy with the decision,” he said recently, after playing a man-of-the-match role in the World T20 qualifiers final.

“You’ve got to end it at some stage. I’ve always been a fan of multi-day cricket and going out winning another trophy is what I want to do.”

Originally a native of Australia – the accent has not yet gone – Johnston played a little first-class cricket there, before settling in Ireland after a club stint in Dublin. He debuted late for them, after he had turned 30, but became a transformative figure in their subsequent rise.

His leadership traversed a period of great change, Ireland turning into a fully professional side.

“The professional contracts has been the big thing,” he said. “We’ve got great sponsors now and they’ve all played a key part.

“Since we turned professional in 2009 we’ve gone up a couple of gears. When you are concentrating on cricket 24/7 and don’t have to worry about anything else, it’s a very pleasing sort of job. We’re very lucky for all the help we got.

“The ICC has poured in a lot of money and we are repaying that. We’re going to another World Cup in March and we’ve got to cause a few more shocks over there and let the cricket world wake up and see Ireland have got a pretty good cricket team.”

Johnston will end up having played nearly 200 representative games for Ireland, including 67 ODIs and 30 T20s; in very few did he not make a contribution of some sort with his muscular pace and occasionally inspired batting.

Two weeks in March 2007, in the Caribbean, stand out.

As captain, Johnston led his side to a tie with Zimbabwe and shock wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh in the World Cup, a period that accelerated Irish progress.

It remains his most cherished memory.

“That 2007 World Cup will be very hard to beat. I was very fortunate to be captain of that side. To have that tie with Zimbabwe and beat Pakistan on St Patrick’s day was amazing.

“We spent seven weeks in a cricket-mad region and it was just a whole special tournament.”

Coaching is on the agenda now; Johnston is keen to give back to a country that has given him the chance to play international cricket.

“Hopefully, I’ve played some small part in introducing the game of cricket back home in Ireland to some kids.

“It’s going from strength to strength.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae