In the latest edition of Former Bears with Brian Halford, William Porterfield talks about winning trophies, loving his time at Edgbaston and playing an integral part in the rise of Ireland cricket.
William Porterfield has played an integral role in the historic rise of Ireland’s cricket team over the last decade and reflects upon that rise as “an incredible journey.”
But ‘Purdy’ also recalls his eight years as a Bear with immense pleasure, asserting that: “I loved it at Warwickshire from first day to last.”
First day to last was 2011, when he arrived from Gloucestershire, to 2017, when, already Ireland captain for a decade, the time was drawing near when he would lead his country in their inaugural Test match.
When Warwickshire showed an interest in me it was just perfect – and it couldn’t have worked out better.William Porterfield
It was a strong era for the Warwickshire team as, assisted by Porterfield’s muscular batting and brilliant fielding, they won every trophy available. For the young man from Derry, it was a perfect step in a career of which he could have barely dreamed as a boy.
“I moved from Gloucestershire because I wanted to play at a First Division club, based at a Test ground and who could win trophies,” Porterfield said. “When Warwickshire showed an interest in me it was just perfect – and it couldn’t have worked out better. Edgbaston is a fantastic place to play cricket with so many great people on and off the field. We won every trophy and I loved it at Warwickshire from first day to last.
“We won the championship in my second year and then the T20 Blast two years later. Finals Day was amazing. I remember walking to the nets at Edgbaston at quarter to nine in the morning and a guy came up and wished me luck and gave me a hug. He only had a quarter of a pint left in his glass – I wondered how much of the day he was going to see!
“It was a memorable day in so many ways. We won the first semi and then I walked home and lay on my sofa in the afternoon before walking back to the ground and hour and a half before the final. Not everyone gets the chance to do that before a final.
“It was an incredible atmosphere, just like it is for internationals at Edgbaston. One of the reasons I was gutted that Ireland didn’t qualify for the World Cup last year is that I would love to play for Ireland at Edgbaston. The draw might not have worked out that way but there would have been a chance. We’ve got an ODI there in September so hopefully it will happen. It’s up to me to keep scoring runs and keep my place in the team.
“Lord’s finals were special too. Lord’s is an amazing place – though Edgbaston, with the Hollies Stand rocking, is something else.”
Porterfield’s contribution to Warwickshire’s success, particularly in white-ball cricket, was often unsung, though never within the dressing-room where there have been few more popular players than this epitome of a team man.
His county career always ran parallel to his Ireland commitments, of which there were plenty. When the history of the growth of Ireland cricket is written, Porterfield’s name will be all over it. Not that he would ever think in those terms.
Cricket in Ireland has come a long way, but we have to keep going.William Porterfield
“You don’t stop and think about it while you are in the thick of it,” he said. “Maybe when I have stopped playing that will be the time to look back and reflect.
“It has been an incredible journey. When we set out in 2006 we were completely amateur – now we have 19 senior contracted players. It has been a privilege to be involved in that journey.
“To captain Ireland in a Test match was an incredible experience, as was playing the Lord’s Test. As a cricket-loving boy in Ireland it was a dream to play Test cricket but that’s all it was – a dream. Now it’s tangible and the young lads coming through have got that to aim for.
“Cricket in Ireland has come a long way, but we have to keep going. We want to make it a mainstream sport, up there with football and rugby. But it has to be done at the right pace. It is brilliant to have full international status with all that brings but with international cricket, as well as greater income, comes greater expenditure.”
Porterfield stepped down from the Ireland captaincy last November but remains full of desire to keep playing – and is relishing doing so without the colossal demands of leadership.
“I was captain at 24 and it was a big learning curve,” he said. It was a bit surreal because some of the players I had always looked up to were still in the team and the hardest thing was when I wanted them to do things a certain way and they disagreed.
“At that age I didn’t realise what a big job captaincy is, especially on tour when players are away from their loved ones. There is a lot to do because, in some ways, everyone is your responsibility. After stepping down from the captaincy, it was really cool to go on a tour only having to think about scoring runs.”
There are plenty of runs left in the Porterfield locker yet, hopefully a few in the ODI at Edgbaston on September 12. And beyond that, what does the future hold?
“I’ve got my Level Three coaching but I’ve always had an interest in property so I will probably do something in that, developing old buildings and getting then back into a place where people can live,” he said. “It will probably be a combination of the two. But I will always be a Bear!”
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