But after his comments, I admit that my imagination was set wandering, and when that happens, research cannot be far away. I have already pondered what Test cricket may have meant to Kenya, but what of those nations who have earned their chance in the longest format by winning in the longest format? Without further ado, here are my imaginings of what could have happened differently.
When Scotland won the first Intercontinental Cup, they were better drilled and more professional than their opponents.
Scotland won the Intercontinental Cup's inaugural edition in 2004 by outclassing their opponents throughout. They were so accomplished that they were held up as a beacon of non-Test cricket, and hailed as the early favourites to qualify for the next World Cup. Bangladesh had been struggling desperately with the step up to Test cricket, and desperately needed a win in the format to justify their place. As a result, they jumped at the chance to play a neutral, late-November Test in the UAE against the best side from the rest of the world.
Scotland, generally, were plucky challengers. Craig Wright and John Blain fought gallantly with the ball, but in the end their attack felt rather like the Bangladeshis': military medium. Where the gulf shows, though, is in the spin department. The closest the Scots get to proper spin bowling are some cutters from Ian Stanger, the policy of picking Blain, Hoffman, Butt, Wright and Watson showing a slight lack of foresight. Bangladesh, on the other hand, have a two-pronged spin threat, led by the darts of Mohammad Rafique. It is the turning, spitting deliveries of Rafique that sees the back of a batting line-up that was plenty up to the ask in Associate cricket.
Nafees Iqbal and Javed Omar both hit centuries, putting together a big second-wicket stand. When the Scots broke that partnership, the damage was done. That victory, though, wasn't enough to lift the Bangladeshis to anything other than innings defeats against India at home. While the match is widely considered to be one of the weakest Test matches of all time, it was not an outright failure, and the ICC decide to continue with the concept for another edition.
Ireland knocked out the reigning champions in the group stage; Jeremy Bray was one of the stars.
Ireland won the 2005 Intercontinental Cup convincingly, but their Test match is not played for another another eight months. This is because the ICC want to take Test cricket to the winning nation. However, this didn't exactly go according to plan, as very few of the Full Members were prepared to visit Dublin. In the end, Zimbabwe were convinced to come. They were heading into a self-imposed exile, and could only put out a very makeshift side. Ireland, meanwhile, looked mostly young, with a fair amount of imported talent.
The first couple of days were grey and gloomy, and the Zimbabweans rued the fact that they could only really populate their bowling attack with spinners. One of them, though, a young leggie picked straight out of school, impressed everyone: Ryan Higgins. The teenager troubled almost all of the Irish batsmen, but Jeremy Bray managed to see him off and cash in against some friendly medium pace. He scored the first Test century from an Associate batsman, but only around a thousand spectators were there to see it.
The poor attendance was, in no small part, down to the appalling weather. Despite a very friendly declaration from each side, the incessant rain drowned the Clontarf ground, and the Test match ended in a disappointing and soggy draw. This time, though, the ICC were impressed by what they saw: one or two of the Irishmen looked like they might hack it against Test opposition. The same could not be said, though, for the Zimbabweans. They went on to spend half a decade in the wilderness.
Just a year on from their last Test, the Irish are younger, fitter, stronger.
This was the first time that an Associate had travelled overseas to play a Test match in their opposition's backyard. The New Zealanders, who wanted to try out some of their new talent, agreed to play the Intercontinental Champions' Test, but only if they could play it at home. Ireland had no objections, so they flew out to play a Test match at the stunning ground in Dunedin. Off the back of their World Cup campaign, they now know that they have it in them to beat Full Member nations.
It wasn't exactly their innings-and-the-rest mauling of Canada, but the Irish put in a creditable performance against the Kiwis. Incredibly, they hand out six Test debuts, to Will Porterfield, Kevin O'Brien, Gary Wilson, Thinus Fourie, Boyd Rankin and Dave Langford-Smith. Niall O'Brien was expected to play, but his poor season with the Kolpaks at Wantage Road counted against him. As it happened, the Irish batsmen worked well together, passing 200 in both innings, and 250 in the first, but they lacked the nuggety resistance that O'Brien could have provided in the upper order.
In the end, they weren't quite good enough to get within 100 runs of a victory. The Kiwis won by seven wickets with an inexperienced side littered with names such as How, Flynn, Redmond, Patel, Southee and Elliott. It was one of those names, Southee, who blew away the Irish batting, while the more experienced Scott Styris provided the impetus with the bat. The crowd, though, created a decent atmosphere at University Oval, and the Test brought in a modest profit. The Test match had put itself on the map.
Andre Botha comprehensively dominated the fourth Intercontinental Cup.
The Irish travelled once again, this time to play a Test against the declining West Indies. Rumblings of a player walk-out seem to be unfounded, though, and most of the top West Indian players play. As most sides do when playing the Champions' Test, they choose to try out some young batsmen: Brendan Nash, Travis Dowlin and the recently recalled Xavier Marshall, as well as some equally inexperienced players with leather in hand: Amit Jaggernauth and Lionel Baker.
This Test, like with the New Zealand one, provides the curtain-raiser for an England series. The main lesson to be learned in this Test is that Jerome Taylor is a serious handful. Only three players survive for their third successive Ireland Test: Trent Johnston, Andrew White and Kyle McCallan. Andre Botha is one of four debutants, after a domineering performance in the Intercontinental Cup, and he continues to be excellent. Once he has scored a patient sixty, and taken three wickets with his nibbling medium-pace, nobody can quite work out why he didn't play in the last Test.
For a long time, Ireland think that this will be the match where they finally chalk up their first win. It is clear that the West Indians are pretty weak when you scratch beneath Shiv Chanderpaul, but therein lies the problem: you do not win a Test match when Shiv Chanderpaul scores a big century against you. Nobody really stays with him, but his management of the tail-enders is enough to elbow the Irish out of the game. Will Porterfield, the new Irish skipper, is powerless to stop him, and equally powerless to withstand Jerome Taylor who scythes through the visiting batsmen to leave the West Indies with a minimal run-chase.
Mohammad Shahzad is the bright young face of another new Test team.
For a time, Zimbabwe saw the Intercontinental Cup as their route back into Test cricket. Ireland, too, were much fancied, despite their lack of players who weren't on county duty. However, there was a shock winner of the fifth I-Cup: Afghanistan. There was talk of a local derby between the Afghans and Pakistanis to be played in the UAE, but in the end, they dropped out, and Bangladesh accepted their invitation to play another one-off Test match. This was not, though, the same Bangladesh side that the Associate champion met in 2004, but then, the Afghans were a more talented bunch than the Scots.
It turned out to be a gripping contest for the first few days. Mohammad Shahzad dominated the first innings with a huge debut ton, but his team-mates could offer little in the way of support as all but Mohammad Nabi were found to be insufficient to deal with the left-arm spin threat. 300, though, is a good score, and when you have the quality of pacemen that Afghanistan have to call upon, you can make that kind of score work for you. And they did, procuring a modest first-innings lead that was enough to raise hopes.
Sadly, Shahzad wasn't able to repeat his heroics. Mangal and Nabi both made 30s, but Bangladesh were never going to mess up a target of 130. The next Intercontinental Cup was set to last until late 2013, so there were no further Associate Tests due until 2014. Ireland, for one, hope to be there again.