Pushed for time today, so for Day 5 I offer a few brief thoughts on Ireland’s World Cup campaign…
With just a smidge over a month to go until the start of the Cricket World Cup, most teams are now beginning to focus on the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. But some teams have been looking forward to the World Cup for longer than most.
Since Ireland fell at the group stage of the 2011 World Cup, despite a memorable Kevin O’Brien inspired 3-wicket victory over England, they have been preparing for the next edition with every game and innings they play. For most teams the tournament offers a chance to win some silverware and to add some prestige to their already illustrious histories. For Ireland, the World Cup represents a chance to substantiate their very existence. Especially so since the ICC’s ludicrous decision to limit the 2019 edition of the tournament to just 10 teams.
For the past 5 years, Ireland have been the undisputed kings of the associate game. Despite advances from Afghanistan and more recently Papua New Guinea, it is Ireland who are the most capable of causing a shock down under next month.
Surrey and Ireland batsman Gary Wilson has recently said that if Ireland are going to make people take notice they will have to reach the semi-finals. That may be true; the Irish heroes of 2007 elevated their status with a single upset against Pakistan. However, to turn heads to the same level once again, at least a quarter-final will need to be achieved.
If Ireland manage to defeat a full member but don’t make it out of their group, it could rightly be considered a failure from a supremely talented group of cricketers. I’m not going to go through the entire squad and list just how strong they are – maybe another time – but needless to say their squad now contains a lot of international experience as well as proven county performers.
It could perhaps be no longer considered an upset if Ireland made the knockout stages of the tournament. With Bangladesh and Zimbabwe far from proven at international tournaments, England’s and West Indies’ turmoil and the unfamiliar conditions for Asian teams, Ireland will be positive about making a big splash down under this spring.