PJ Moor moved to Ireland to play cricket and broke two fingers learning how.
"The ball does a lot more after it's bounced, so as a wicketkeeper you have to concentrate a lot more. In Zimbabwe that didn't really happen. The ball used to just carry nicely to the keepers, but in Ireland it nips and seams around," Moor told ESPNcricinfo. "In my first season I couldn't keep for a few months and I broke two fingers in three years."
The hazards to his extremities were a small price to pay for what Moor saw as a genuine opportunity, at a time when those were disappearing in the country of his birth.
It was mid-2019 and Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) had been suspended from the ICC, putting the team's participation for the 2020 T20 World Cup qualifiers and the future of the game in the country in doubt. At the same time, Ireland, a country Moor knew well from holidays as a child and club cricket stints in his early 20s, gained Test status and enjoyed a fairly regular white-ball schedule, which included a 3-0 ODI series whitewash over a Zimbabwe squad Moor was part of. Though born and brought up in Zimbabwe, he had an Irish passport - his paternal grandmother was from the country.
With that in hand, Moor was presented with what seemed a no-brainer. "My family has strong ties to Ireland. I have always loved it and I saw it as a chance to progress my career."
In October that year, he relocated to Dublin and joined Clontarf Cricket Club, in a system he describes as being "like a little family," but an enterprising one. "When I compare what they [Ireland] were like when I first went there [to what they were in 2019], they had come on in leaps and bounds," he said. "They got Test status in between. Their facilities have improved and the provincial structures were excellent. They've all got good coaches. And the wickets - when I went first over there, they were very clubby style wickets, whereas now you get good wickets and good groundsmen."
But it would be a while before he was to actually play provincial cricket there. The Covid-19 pandemic brought cricket to a halt everywhere in the world and Ireland's domestic season was one of the biggest casualties. In the summer of 2020, they only played four List A matches and six T20 games while their first-class competition did not take place at all.
Moor was always going to have to play a waiting game - because players who want to represent a second country at international level must have a three-year cooling-off period from the time they play their last game for the first country - but it felt even longer.
Eventually, the next summer, Moor got going for Munster. "I was welcomed into a system that was enthusiastic about a player who had played Test cricket coming into their domestic structures. They treated me so well," he said, even if he found keeping wicket slightly tough.
Seven games in, when regular captain Tyrone Kane was injured, Moor was chosen to captain them for the rest of the T20 competition. In the Irish winter, he would return to Zimbabwe, in part to make the best of both worlds in summer, but also to play on the domestic circuit there. In the 2021-22 season, he was among the top ten run-scorers in Zimbabwe's Pro50 Championship , and that summer he was second on the run-scoring charts in Ireland's List A competition and fifth in the T20 Trophy.
Those numbers stood him in good stead to be selected for Ireland as soon as he became available, in October 2022. "I was so hopeful that I would be selected. That was my ambition. I had tunnel vision when I got there and I'd said to myself that I want to play for Ireland."
But Ireland chose to stick with their tried-and-tested combination for the 2022 T20 World Cup, a decision that paid off as they advanced to the Super12s, which only made Moor want his first cap that much more. "It was a little bit of a disappointment for me. but it fuelled my ambition. I knew I was so close to playing, so it just motivated me."
Zimbabwe had also played in the Super 12s and were rejuvenated under new coach Dave Houghton, who Moor had previously played under. Did he ever consider making a U-turn? "I didn't have any regrets at all. I made a decision," he said. "And when I saw Zimbabwe doing so well, I was thrilled for the guys. Zimbabwe is where I was born. I played alongside all the guys who are playing for Zimbabwe now. I can only wish the best for Zimbabwe Cricket."
He had another good season in Zimbabwe, finishing sixth on the Pro50 run-scorers' list and second in the T20 competition but when Ireland announced their squads to Bangladesh, he was not in the white-ball groups. Instead, Moor was awarded a casual contract and named in the Test squad to play Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and there's some sound logic to that.
With eight Test caps to his name, Moor is more experienced than all of the Ireland squad. Only Andy Balbirnie, Andy McBrine, Mark Adair and George Dockrell have played Tests before, and between them they have seven caps. Of those, Balbirnie is the only one other than Moor to have played more than one first-class game in the last three years. Six other members of the Test squad played an unofficial Test in Bangladesh in 2021 but the rest have not played any red-ball games since 2019 and, of those, Matthew Humphreys and Ben White have not played a first-class game at all.
All that must mean Moor is a shoo-in for a Test debut but, with Lorcan Tucker also in the squad, Moor may not be their first-choice wicketkeeper given his finger issues. That doesn't matter to Moor, who sees a chance to re-establish himself as an international player and a core member of the Ireland Test side that are rebuilding their brand. "Everyone is just so excited to play Test cricket." Moor said. "Ireland play four Tests in the next two-and-a-half months, which is extremely exciting."
That's perspective if you ever needed any. While players from countries like South Africa and West Indies have been complaining about getting only six to eight Tests a year (and rightly so), Ireland, who are not part of the World Test Championship, will grab their four with both hands.
The fourth of those is against England at Lord's, which for Moor is a career goal he may never have achieved if he had stayed with Zimbabwe: England don't play Zimbabwe for political reasons. "I've watched a Test there and I've played for the MCC three times at Lord's and I would just love to play there," Moor, who is an MCC member, said. "It's an amazing ground, the atmosphere. When you go to the Long Room and you sit in the pavilion, it's just every cricketer's dream. And a Test match against England, particularly this current team with Bazball, will be an amazing experience."
While Moor is a naturally aggressive player, he doesn't know if Ireland will adopt that as their long-format philosophy just yet, especially as they ease their way back into Tests. "Ireland haven't played a Test match since three years ago, when I was still qualifying, so it's quite difficult to say what brand of cricket they might play. But watching Test cricket over the last few years and how it is progressing, it will be interesting to see how we go about it. Test cricket is changing."
And for a country like Ireland, it's not the format where their players get the highest profile, which is why Moor is looking at his Test call-up as part of the journey, and not the final destination. "Test cricket has always been the most special form for me but I'd like to play all formats. I believe I have the quality to play all three formats. And I hope I can play a few World Cups for Ireland in the coming years. I still believe I've got three or four years of good cricket in me at the top level. Even though I might have missed out on a few World Cups for Zimbabwe in the last few years, I hope I can play for Ireland at the next one."
And if he is able to do that, he hopes that like Josh Little and Paul Stirling, he will get noticed by franchise leagues. "When you are not playing international cricket, it's very difficult to get picked up in those leagues. And for me, I went off the radar for three years because no one is really watching provincial cricket," he said. "But my main focus now is hopefully to be playing for Ireland, winning games for Ireland, and if that goes well - well, every cricketer wants to be playing in those leagues."