World T20: Ireland will be fully expecting to qualify for Super 10 stage
Hard-hitting displays crucial to Ireland's bid to becoming Full Member of ICC...
Last Updated: 16/03/14 11:08am
Now William Porterfield's side have their sights set on a place in the Super 10 stage of the 2014 World Twenty20 but must come through first-round matches against Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands to earn the right.
Former Ireland all-rounder Kyle McCallan, part of Sky Sports' team for the tournament, explains why the 'underdog' tag no longer fits...
Is Irish cricket in a good place right now, Kyle?
KYLE: There has been a partial changing of the guard in the sense that seasoned campaigner Trent Johnston has retired and Andy White is no longer involved, while a few young lads have come in and will be experiencing a World Cup for the first time.
But the majority of the squad has remained fairly stable and we've been able to keep an experienced leadership group within the side while integrating new players. Despite a couple of disappointing warm-up results recently (which I wouldn't necessarily play a huge amount of attention to) I think that Ireland are still in a pretty good place and will be going to Bangladesh fully expecting to qualify for the main stage of the competition.
How tough will those Group B games be?
KYLE: Bangladesh will be a different proposition in Bangladesh so it was very important that we won the initial qualification stage in the UAE to avoid them. Zimbabwe still seem to be in a great deal of turmoil and having beaten them in the build-up to the previous competition I'm sure the boys will be confident of doing the same job.
We certainly think we are capable of challenging Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and build on our strong record at Associate level and World Cup level to keep putting pressure on the ICC. In that sense it's very important that we get a result against Full Members like Zimbabwe.
Results like the recent victory over the West Indies will certainly help. What stood out for you about that performance?
KYLE: I think the fact that everyone was bitterly upset that we didn't win the second T20 game, when we couldn't chase down their 96-9, and won a series against the World Twenty20 Champions in their own surroundings. That disappointment is an indication of just how far Irish cricket has come. It was a big result but results like that can't be one-offs any more - Ireland have got to get over the finish line consistently against the Full Members. We were a little bit guilty last year of not doing that against Pakistan when we tied a game and lost a very close game.
Just much credit should coach Phil Simmons take for Ireland's advances?
KYLE: He's doing a tremendous job. There would have been a school of thought among the spectators and the general public that he had huge boots to fill succeeding Adrian Birrell, particularly as the bulk of Adrian's squad was moving on. In that context Phil has been hugely successful at establishing continuity while also integrating new players.
At 21, George Dockrell is still a relatively young fella but these days we talk about him as one of the experienced players in the camp. We've now got the likes of Stuart Thompson who has come into the side as a seam-bowling all-rounder, Andy McBrine, an off-spinner batsman, and Andrew Poynter, who has been selected as a T20 specialist on the basis of some very successful domestic displays.
There are a number of guys who have been left at home who could rightly be disappointed with missing out on the squad, including Craig Young who we are hoping will fill Trent Johnston's boots in the years to come as an opening bowler. I'm hoping that those new faces in the squad learn quickly because it's a steep learning curve.
What is Ireland's strongest suit?
KYLE: Our bowling has been strong in the last month or so as our batting has gone through a few little wobbles - but I'm sure William Porterfield will lead by example in this tournament, while we all know that Ed Joyce is a class act. The key players, though, are Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien - they are the guys who can really hurt teams. The recent West Indies v England games have shown how important six-hitting is so a large part of our tournament will come down to how those two perform. But it's encouraging to see someone like Max Sorensen starting to take on that role of the late-order hitter. John Mooney will be sorely missed but there's still enough talent in the side to ensure that if we peak on the day, we should come through this initial qualifying stage.
How disappointing would it be if Ireland didn't make the Super 10s?
KYLE: It would be a blow because we're in the fairly early stages of a first-class structure that we are hoping to get the go-ahead for; we have a new inter-regional series and our national academy is up and running. We have all of the structures in place that the ICC requires for full membership - the problem that we have is getting the funds to finance the proper running of it. It's important to qualify for the second stage of the tournament so that the strides Irish cricket is making continues to be recognised. We won the five-day final of the Intercontinental Cup, we've won the 50-over Cricket League and we've won the Twenty20 qualifiers at Associate level - we're the champions of all three formats at our own level. You can't get any better unless we start getting more games against Full Members. Strong performances at World Cups will go a long way to helping that happen.
Watch Ireland's opening Group B match, against Zimbabwe, on Monday at 9am on Sky Sports 2. Before then don't miss the action as the hosts get the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 competition underway against Afghanistan - a match you can watch live on Sky Sports 2 from 9am on Sunday.