Andrew Balbirnie, the Ireland Test captain, has backed Gary Wilson to prosper in the role of helping to bring through the country’s next generation of cricketers after the wicketkeeper-batsman retired from playing to take on a coaching role.
Wilson declared his innings closed after 292 matches in his country’s colours in all formats – not to mention another 234 county appearances first for Surrey and more recently for Derbyshire.
He will take up a new position as the head coach of North West Warriors, one of four first-class teams in the Irish system.
Balbirnie said Wilson, who took over as T20 captain in 2018, always led by example. “Within the set-up he was the one who would always offer to develop the next crop of young Irish cricketers,” Balbirnie said. “I have no doubt he will be a successful coach and I’m looking forward to seeing his progress. We are very lucky to have someone like Gary still involved in Irish cricket.”
Graham Ford, the Ireland men’s head coach, was equally effusive in his support for Wilson, saying that while the team would miss his “valuable” contributions as a player he had in recent times “played a big part in helping younger players find their feet at international level.”
He added: “Gary now takes on a very important role within our cricketing system and I have no doubt that he will positively impact on many crickters ensuring that exciting talent is identified and well-prepared for the challenges of inter-provincial and international cricket.”
Wilson himself admitted he was leaving the playing arena with regret. “To step away from international cricket after 16 years is something I will miss dearly – I will miss the guys probably more than anything,” he said. “But pulling on the shirt and playing for Ireland was the only thing I ever dreamed of growing up. To have played for Ireland 292 times is something I am very proud of – if I had thought I’d have made it 10 times growing up I would have snapped your hand off.”
He pointed to a man-of-the-match performance against the UAE in the 2015 World Cup in Brisbane as his most memorable match. There, he hit 80 from 69 balls, sharing in half-century stands for the fifth and sixth wickets with Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien as they claimed the win with four balls to spare.
He was in the Irish squad for two World Cup finals – that one in Australia and another in India in 2011 – and participated in five World T20 finals from 2009 to 2016.
The 35-year-old, who also won the county championship division two title while at the Oval, said: “Coaching is always something I’ve thought of once I finished playing. What’s exciting about it here in Ireland is the impact I think I can have – the opportunity to improve players.
“Hopefully, I can use some of my experience both from England and playing for Ireland in order to do that. I’m really passionate about Irish cricket and hopefully can help bring through the next generation and see Ireland flourish in the future.0”
Jingle by Jeff Perkins