Boyd Rankin takes a look at the ball and starts his run up. He reaches the crease and delivers a ball just outside off and short in length. George Bailey drops back and pulls away towards backward square leg for four runs.
It’s Ireland’s opening match against Australia in the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup and Boyd has just completed his four over spell of 4 – 1 – 28 – 0.
Rankin walks over to his fielding position and waits, not realising that was his last delivery for Ireland.
Rankin missed the next group match against West Indies with injury and after playing for Ireland, England Lions and Warwickshire over the past two years he knew he had to make a decision.
“It was a very difficult decision,” he says with a hint of disappointment, when talking about his retirement from Ireland last year.
“It was great for me, as I was bowling against the best players and that gave me a lot of confidence moving forward. But with the heavy workload I couldn’t continue to play the amount of cricket I had been playing.
“I was playing throughout the year with Ireland and I was picking up a lot of injuries, so I thought something’s got to go, unfortunately it was Ireland”.
Rankin ended his Irish career with 110 wickets and was the Irish leading wicket taker in the 2007 World Cup. Younes Khan and Michael Vaughan were two of his biggest scalps and the 6ft7 seamer looks back at the experience with great fondness.
“It was great. When I started, the full side wasn’t full-time. It was just amateur cricketers, so there was no real pathway there for me to see where I could go. I was doing it because I loved doing it and because I love playing for my country. Thankfully with all the hard work that I had with the rest of the squad, during that 2007 World Cup we learned a lot.
“It was quite an early thing for me in terms of being thrown straight in to the World Cup in 2007, when I was only 22. But I knew then that I could actually compete with the best players and actually do well against them, so I think that helped me a lot.”
Rankin’s commitment to the game is based on his background. Growing up in Derry as a cattle and sheep farmer, Rankin started to play the game from a young age. “I started about 7 or 8 just at my local primary school and it was my Dad who mainly got me into it. He used to play local club cricket and he was always keen on that, so I got into it through playing at school and my local club. Since I was mostly bigger than the others, it helped me in terms of me being quicker at 10 and 11 years old. From that stage I gradually worked my way through the under 8’s to the full Ireland side. It was always cricket for me. I played a little bit of rugby as well during my school years but once I finished school I knew it was cricket full-time.
“I didn’t really think I was going to be a full-time cricketer till after the World Cup in 07, but I did reasonably well, so it was then I thought I could give it a go.”
Give it a go he did. Rankin joined Middlesex in 2004, before leaving due to lack of first team opportunity. He joined Derbyshire in 2006 and after two years of battling through injury he joined Warwickshire in 2008.
Rankin’s form at Warwickshire continued to improve year upon year. This in his opinion is down to bowling coach Graeme Welch, who has transformed his game. “There’s a lot of hard work behind it, such as fitness, but I think in terms of my bowling he’s done a lot for me. Ever since I’ve been at Warwickshire I think he’s been a good person to chat to even during the game just to bounce ideas off. There’s been quite a few good bowlers come through here while he’s been in charge so I think he’s doing a great job here and hopefully he’s here for a long time to come.”
The Bears share the sentiment and as current County Champions Rankin knows there’s lots of work of ahead of replicating last season. “I think its just working hard everyday with all the different skills. I think the lads have worked very hard through the winter and we’ve tried to go that bit further even during the wintertime. We’ve tried to work on our games even more so I think it’s a matter of trying to keep working hard and hopefully we can get the good results.
“You’ve got to believe we’re going to win it. We’ve got a great squad. We’ve got a real good rounded squad. It’s a matter of still believing and although we know it won’t be easy, if we believe then there is no reason why we can’t.”
“They’re (county rivals) going to be vying for us, so there’s obviously going to be some pressure. It’s just a matter of us keep doing the good things we were doing last year and try not to think to far ahead and just concentrate on each game.
Those good things have led to Rankin being on the England periphery. After taking 55 wickets in 2011, Rankin was selected for the England Performance Programme (EPP). Rankin believes that if he’s injury free then the next step is Test Cricket. “ I’ve always said I’d love to play Test Cricket for England.
“Staying fit is the main thing. I’ve shown over a period of time during the season that I have been taking wickets in the Championship and I was taking them in ODI Cricket a few years ago. I’ve played a lot of ODI’s with Ireland and I’ve done pretty well, so I know I can still play in the ODI format.
“I’m trying to look at myself as offering something different in terms of my height, bounce and pace and I know that if I’m on form and in terms of what I can do I’m the best in the country. I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep putting in good performances and see what happens from there.”
If Rankin is successful he’ll have great support from the people around him. When asked, Rankin brushed aside any signs of negativity of retiring from Ireland for an England call-up. “I classify myself as British as I grew up in Northern Ireland. I think they’re (family) happy I’m playing cricket full time and it’s not something that everybody gets to do. It’s a chance I couldn’t really turn down and I’m really enjoying it. They would obviously love me to go on and play Test Cricket, because that’s what I want to do, but they’ll always be proud with what I did with Ireland.”