The World Cup is just 12 days away, and for now, all I can feel is genuine excitement. Sure, I’ll be just as annoyed as the rest of you when the tournament feels like it’s been going for months and England and Bangladesh play out a boring dead match in front of nobody. But for now, let’s stay positive. Perhaps this will be the best World Cup ever. Who knows?
Over the next 10 days I will be outlining my 10 players to watch over the coming weeks. They’re in no particular order, and I’ve tried to have a balance of experienced campaigners and a few younger players. But, fundamentally these are just 10 players who I think will have a big influence down under this spring. Hopefully I can revisit the list after the final and see how well I’ve done.
The Ireland number three has enjoyed a renaissance in his international career since re-joining the country of his birth. A prolific run scorer at county level for well over a decade, Joyce has racked up nearly a 1,000 ODI runs at an average of 37 for Ireland.
This may not seem like an overly impressive return, but bear in mind that Joyce has been plying his trade mostly on pitches not often intended for international cricket, and also playing for one of the ‘have-nots’ of the world game.
Joyce can be seen as symbol of Irish cricket. He played 17 ODI’s for England during 2006 and 2007, and was perhaps an illustration of the plight of Irish cricket over the past decade. After not being considered for England for a long period, Joyce decided to re-register to paly for his home nation; unlike Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan who have decided to stay with England; with differing outcomes thus far. His re-commitment to Ireland has served as a beacon of hope that there will be a time when they can retain their best talent.
Ireland’s mission at this World Cup is two-fold. Initially they will obviously want to give a good account of themselves and to progress as far into the tournament as possible. If the side plays their best cricket, then a quarter final, or even semi-final is not out of the question. But aside from their own personal goals in the World Cup, Ireland are also representing the interests of the associate nations.
As the most experienced, and arguably most talented, associate at the tournament, they are the flag bearers for the game outside of the traditional nations. If they can perform well, then maybe, just maybe, the ICC will rethink their decision to restrict future World Cup’s to just 10 nations.
If Ireland are to be successful with either of their aims, I believe that Joyce will paly a key role. As a top order batsmen his runs will be vital in setting a tempo at the start and also his ability to accumulate large scores will be needed if Ireland are to push the big boys. It is not only his run scoring where his impact may be felt. Joyce is a supremely experienced batsmen, one of the most seasoned at the tournament, and for a side that has limited experience of a global event, his clam, cool head may well be required on more than one occasion.
The conditions down under should be ideally suited to Joyce’s game. He is a strong driver of the ball, but is equally adept at handling the short ball with full-blooded pulls and deft cuts. His time in county cricket should ensure that he is able to handle bowlers of real pace, as well as knowing how to pace a run chase.
If Ed Joyce can find his form and put in some commanding scores for his team, then Ireland may just cause a few ripples over the coming weeks. I sincerely hope that they can make it to the knockout phase; and that Ed Joyce enjoys the finest moments of his long and successful career.