Matthew Mott: Kim Garth exit could push Ireland towards professionalism

Australia’s coach Matthew Mott believes Kim Garth‘s switch from Ireland to a deal with Victoria should be the spur to help usher in women’s professional contracts for Irish cricket to stave off the risk of losing a generation of female talent to wealthier nations.

As a former member of Ireland’s coaching staff during the 2015 men’s ODI World Cup, Mott has plenty of strong relationships on both sides of the equation, and while backing Garth’s decision to pursue a fully professional future, agreed that there was growing danger that emerging nations could have their best players poached by richer set-ups, not least Australia given the pre-eminence of the WBBL as the best domestic T20 event in the world.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has made life difficult for all cricket administrators, Mott was hopeful that the Garth episode would help accelerate Ireland’s move to a more fully-resourced and funded program for the women’s team, allowing players to make the game their careers without needing to venture overseas in this manner.

ALSO READ: Kim Garth leaves Irish cricket for future in Australia

“It’s incredibly important and maybe this is a good thing for Irish cricket – I think it might help fast-track some stuff for their professionalisation,” Mott said. “They surely don’t want to be losing good players and I know that happened in the men’s game. A number of the best Irish players were going to play for England and one ended up captaining England, so I think they’ve certainly improved in that area.

“They’re building their momentum and they need to be playing against good teams and getting better all the time. It’s a difficult thing. I’m very close mates with Ed Joyce who’s the Irish coach, so I was aware of it some time ago and I think it’s disappointing personally for Irish cricket, they’ve put a lot of work in over the last two years, but obviously a cricketer’s ambitions are very important and she’s a very ambitious young player and I think it’s the best thing for her cricket at the moment.

“You’ve got to back that decision, it’s a really gutsy decision to go to the other side of the world and try to follow your dream. We’ve got a great structure here and it’s very attractive for her and she knows our system quite well having been here for a few years as well. I am disappointed for Irish cricket, having coached there myself and know how difficult it is to hold on to good players, but at the end of the day she’s got to do the best thing by her and it will be really interesting to see how far she can take her cricket.”

The links between Cricket Australia and Cricket Ireland are strong and multi-faceted. During the Covid-19 lockdown period, Mott and the Australia captain Meg Lanning were involved in a series of video seminars geared at aiding the Irish game, while there is also a considerable shared heritage between the two nations dating back deep into the 19th century.

“They just love their cricket and that’s the thing that struck me in my time with the Irish team, just how passionate they are about the game and we just want to see them do well,” Mott said. “Kim made a decision off her own bat, there was certainly nothing from CA to try to entice her over here, but that being said we’ll always welcome good cricketers into our setup.”

Garth is expected to seek permanent residency in Australia and Mott said that if she became eligible for the national side she would be treated like any other player. “I think she’s a very talented player, and when you look at the Irish team, whenever we come up against them, she’s the first name talked about If she comes over and does well, our selectors have shown they will reward performance and she’s got every opportunity that everyone else has. She’ll be a welcome player in our domestic format.”

Casting his mind back to last week’s announcement of 40 redundancies across CA, Mott said that the women’s national team had been fortunate in not losing much in the way of staff or resources, even as the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane has its operations scaled back in favour of players spending more time with their own state squads.

“First and foremost, it was a really difficult week for anyone in Australian cricket,” he said. “I think we’re all hurting, we’ve seen a number of really good staff members leave our workplace, and a lot of those are life-long friendships that will still be there and hopefully one day when cricket really gets strong again and we get out of this crisis, those people are welcomed back.

“In terms of the women’s program we’ve been quite fortunate, we’ve taken some hits but we’ve also just hibernated a couple of programs and hopefully when we come out of this we can re-engage. We’ve got to make better use of the resources we’ve got, our programs are going to have to be really in-sync and on-point, so we’re looking at it as a real challenge.”

Mott admitted he was more concerned for cricket’s smaller nations, and budgetary decisions currently being made that might push back the development of the women’s game outside of Australia. “I worry for some of the developing nations to be honest,” he said. “For places like Sri Lanka that aren’t as established in their women’s programs, and I just hope they can hold on through this period.

“The ICC are definitely trying to champion some of the developing countries to be stronger and that’s something all the big nations need to be aware of. We want a global game, we want a world game and where we can help out some of the developing countries whether it’s with our human resources or just helping in tournament play and giving them some key messages.

“Having strong domestic competitions, the next frontier is India, we’d love to see an IPL get up and running and giving our players a chance to play in different conditions and experience different cultures as well.”

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