The curious case of Boyd Rankin: From Ireland to England and back to Ireland
When Peter Siddle ultimately nicked the ball to Jonny Bairstow in the 5th Test of the 2013-14 Ashes series, Boyd Rankin was a relieved man. The tall, lanky fast bowler, who had once left the dreamy Irish shores with the ambition of playing Test cricket, was having a nightmarish debut.
Overcome with nerves and fighting a severe back spasm, Boyd was having a Test debut to forget. It was a tough decision for him to leave his home country and accept the English cap so that he could play for the Three Lions in the longest version of the game. But things had not gone according to plan for him.
A Test debut to forget
Rankin was included in the English Test squad for the 2013-14 Ashes series on the back of a string of impressive limited-overs performances. But the Ashes campaign turned out to be disastrous for England – they were routed 0-5 and it was not until the 5th Test that Rankin got a chance to make his debut.
Overcome by emotion and understandably nervous, Rankin almost had a breakdown as he prepared himself for his Test debut. Rankin later wrote in the Belfast Telegraph: “I must admit I didn’t sleep that night [before the match], with nerves and excitement.
“It also didn’t help that I had a back spasm and so I had to get it checked out on the morning of the game before getting the all-clear to play.
“I was pretty happy with my first spell although there were still a lot of nerves. It was at lunchtime that I started getting cramp and I was fighting against it through my second spell. I wanted it to disappear so badly but there was nothing I could do about it.”
Battling through pain and nerves, Rankin admitted that he felt he was hardly doing justice to his talent in the few overs he bowled.
“Although I managed 12 overs’ bowling in the second innings, I never felt 100 per cent. I was still fighting through the cramp and as a result, I didn’t really have any rhythm throughout the game and it showed in terms of my speed which was down on where I normally would be.
"The first [Test] couldn’t have gone much worse, having to come off with cramp it was a tough few days. It was only on the last day that I felt pretty much at home but I have learnt so much from those three days in terms of what I want to do if I get another chance.”
A long period of disappointment
But there would be no second chance for Boyd Rankin. All his boyhood dreams gradually turned to ashes as he kept toiling away in the hope of a call back to the Test team. The opportunity to play Test cricket had, after all, goaded him to make the ultimate sacrifice of leaving his native country.
The troubling thing about competitive cricket these days is that the team management and the selection committee are not ready to give a player enough opportunities to prove himself. Despite stellar performances in Irish colours and even in English county cricket, Rankin was never given the long rope by the English selectors.
Ever since he left Ireland in 2012, he made very few appearances for England, playing in only seven ODIs, two T20Is and the lone Ashes Test. This was surprising as Boyd had 297 first-class wickets in his kitty and looked quite the part in Irish colours.
Being six feet seven inches tall, he has been able to extract bounce from the least lively wickets in the 2007 World Cup when he claimed twelve wickets in the tournament and helped Ireland progress to the super-eight stage after recording notable victories against Pakistan and Bangladesh.
At the end of the 2007 season, Rankin signed a contract with Warwickshire after unsuccessful stints with Middlesex and Derbyshire where he had struggled to break into the first team. Though he missed the first part of the season with an injury, it was for Warwickshire that things began to come together for him.
He kept performing well, and by 2009, he was opening the bowling for his county with Chris Woakes. It was there that he caught the eye of Ashley Giles, who was Warwickshire’s director of cricket at that time, and started harbouring dreams of making his Test debut for England.
But things went downhill for Rankin all too soon. He did not play a single competitive game after 2014 and by early next year, he began to contemplate playing for Ireland again.