In many organisations there are people behind the scenes who are vital to the public performance. Within Cricket Ireland one such person is Scott Irvine from North Down Cricket Club in the Northern Cricket Union. Scott is the performance analyst working predominantly with the Senior Men, although he also provides support for the Women's team and the Ireland Wolves. Whilst those watching the recent fixtures against England at Bristol and Lord's will be familiar with the players competing on the pitch they may not have an awareness of the team in the background who provide vital support to the team.
In the lead up to tours abroad and to individual matches Scott puts many hours of work into researching the strengths and weaknesses of opposition batsmen, and assessing the stock deliveries and variations of bowlers. One outcome of his detailed research will be helping the Irish batsmen to find opportunities to score runs from opposition bowling attacks. Ireland play against outstanding performers in the world game, and England included Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Adil Rashid. During the matches Scott provides support for the players as well as working on individual and team statistics.
Scott joined Cricket Ireland as an intern during his second year at University (Sport and Exercise Science at The University of Ulster, Jordanstown), and was subsequently kept on in a part time basis during his final year. This was upgraded to a full time post on the departure of Peter Johnston to the Cricket Ireland Academy. He says that it was being in the right place at the right time, and with potential future developments for Cricket Ireland it is a very exciting time to be involved. Scott states that, ‘I cannot thank Cricket Ireland enough for both the support and opportunities I have been given over the last few years, particular thanks must of course go to Pete Johnston for his guidance throughout this time. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from and working with John Bracewell, and the entire backroom staff. It has been a great environment to be a part of’.
As Ireland is an associate nation Scott has access to match videos from the International Cricket Council (ICC). The information collated from the ICC is augmented by statistics generated by Cricket Ireland and perhaps most importantly from discussions with the players, many of whom have the experience of many years playing international cricket. Scott stresses that the information available to Cricket Ireland from the ICC is invaluable. It is hoped that if Test Cricket is granted to Ireland that a potential financial boost would ensure an enhancement to the performance analysis.
Scott’s biggest challenge is the ability to turn around information within tight timeframes. In India over the winter of 2016-17 the games came in quick succession and gave little time for reviewing. His work can involve many hours just to supply a small amount of information that is key to the players development. Often cricketers will ask for random information so he must do the research to have all potential queries covered.
Scott combines his analysis role at Cricket Ireland alongside the Northern Cricket Union. Formerly he had combined this with Coach Education within the NCU, something he thoroughly enjoyed. He stresses that he does not want to be labelled purely as an analyst as he loves coaching and sees the two roles as overlapping. It is important that a coach has an analysts mind and vice versa.
Talking about Ireland’s historic match at Lord’s Scott said, ‘it was my first time at Lord’s and it was an absolutely brilliant experience over the couple of days. There is so much history around that ground and the chance to stand out on the balcony and walk through the long room was surreal at first! The whole occasion of match day itself is something I will never forget and having so much green in the crowd around the ground made it even more special. We pushed England hard at times, and it was just a shame we couldn't get over the line’.
For many who have been involved in cricket over the years there is nothing that beats playing the game they love. Scott whilst thriving in his roles with Cricket Ireland and the NCU still enjoys getting out and playing for his home club North Down. He developed as a cricketer at Grosvenor Grammar and North Down, progressing to play on the first team at The Green. However as the number of games Ireland play increases, alongside his workload with the NCU, he is realistic in his admission that the amount of games he plays himself may diminish. The lure of playing alongside the friends he has grown up with means he will strive to play when possible, and ensure a beneficial reprieve from life behind the laptop.