By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
Cricket fans in Ireland are in for a real treat over the next fortnight, with Ireland facing England this Friday in a one-off ODI followed by an ODI Tri-Series with the West Indies and Bangladesh in Dublin.
Ireland Head Coach Graham Ford is looking forward to watching his side take on England this Friday in Malahide, a team he considers one of the best teams in the world. Ford said, “For the players it’s a great challenge and opportunity. You want to test your skills against the best. England are arguably the best side in the world at both formats – One Day and Test – so here we are. We’re going to play against them, and if you play well against them the confidence levels in our group will go sky high. It’s exciting from that point of view.”
“For me personally as a coach, well you do get a little nervous, a little worried. You look at the quality of the players, I saw Sam Curran play for Delhi Capitals recently in the IPL, just cleaning up against Kings XI Punjab and your thinking, well…I’m sure we’ll meet him in the Test match. They’ve got a lot of wonderful cricketers, so a good test for our guys.”
What can the fans who turn up in Malahide expect?
They’re going to see some really good cricket, that’s for sure. They’re going to see some of the best in the world, and some of our guys scraping like crazy to show they can compete. They’ve done it many times before.”
I asked the coach to sum up his time as Ireland head coach. He said, “It’s been interesting, I continue to learn. It’s very different to other coaching set-ups I’ve been involved in. Finances are obviously an issue, facilities are an issue, weather, the playing population is limited, so for all of those reasons it’s very different. I think attitude of players and people involved in the game here is absolutely brilliant, so that’s exciting.”
“As far as the team performance etc, we’re in an interesting phase right now in that we’ve lost Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, in the last tour Gary Wilson wasn’t there, so we’ve lost a good bit of experience. In the old days, when Irish cricket was at its real best, you had probably 10-12 guys playing county cricket. You also had the Irish team playing in the county one-day competition, where you were looking at 24-25 guys getting really good competition. We’re now in a situation where you have 3-team Inter-Pro competition. I think last year they played only 21 days of Inter-Pro cricket, where a typical county player will play upwards of 90 games.”
“One of the problems that English cricketers experience is that county cricket is a long way off International cricket, so it kind of puts it into perspective, we’re a long way off that. Having said that, I think there’s very exciting signs. I think if we can pump more money, effort and energy into our A team and our Wolves cricket we can overcome the problem of no county cricket and the other issues. The tour to Sri Lank was brilliant for our younger guys. We need to try and develop more quality match-winners. At the moment. we’ve got a couple of real match-winners and then quite a lot that are just support-acts.”
“One of the things is experience at that level. Some of them are starting to have that. The more that, whether they play in the International team or the Wolves team, some of these younger guys handle pressure situations – Andrew Balbirnie’s progress sums it up, is that at times he played good roles but hadn’t got us over line, whereas now he is – some of these younger guys will have to go through that process. There’s no magic switch, it does take time, but I think if we give them the opportunities, we keep working – the commitment from these players is outstanding, I can’t say enough about their commitment, desire and motivation – but they do need opportunities. You can’t play 21 days of Inter-Pro cricket and some club cricket and then go and play England and expect to perform.”
“Those are the sort of things that we have to overcome, I’m sure we will get it right. It takes finances, at times we don’t have the finances being a minor sport. The ICC allocations aren’t that great, hopefully there’ll be a bit more money coming in from this Euro T20 Slam, but we definitely need more Wolves cricket, and more Inter-Pro cricket as well.”
Picture Credit: Cricket Ireland