Players, backroom team and supporters will have had time to take stock after Ireland’s brilliant start to WC2015 and no doubt there will be plenty of food for thought ahead of Tuesday’s huge test against South Africa.
Wins against the West Indies and UAE were certainly deserved and although they have once again raised the profile of cricket in Ireland on a global stage, they have also raised the stakes considerably.
Whereas Phil Simmons’ lads went into the tournament without the pressure of expectation of qualification for the quarter finals, that is no longer the case.
We’ve been given the big build up over the past few days and the majority of press, media and our own fans will feel that failure to make the last eight will now be exactly that.
To his credit, Warren Deutrom said at the start that not qualifying from Pool B would represent failure at the tournament and you can see his thinking. There is no point in him continually hammering at the ICC door and then watching the team getting rolled over on the one forum where everyone will be watching.
A decent showing against the Proteas and India, or wins against Zimbabwe or Pakistan will leave the ICC with their trousers down in front of a global audience.
Four defeats on the other hand will offer a shred of justification for the decision to reduce the 2019 renewal to 10 teams.
Whatever way you look at it, the Associate legacy of this, and future World Cups is firmly in Ireland’s hands.
What has been striking about Ireland the 2015 model is that it has defied the odds in continuing to improve. Many would have felt that the massive steps taken under Adi Birrell, culminating in the Caribbean in 2007, would be the yardstick for every future Irish cricket team.
Handing over the reins to Phil Simmons resulted in almost total dominance at Intercontinental and Associate level, and painstakingly close to egging the ICC’s face again in 2011. A thoroughly professional off-field set up has ensured that there was to be no let-up however and at elite level at all ages, Irish cricket has thrived as a result.
On the field, Simmons has managed to oversee a changing of the guard as well- gradually introducing what will be the next generation of Irish International player as the senior members begin to make way.
Team selection is not something I feel in any way qualified to comment on, however the Head Coach must surely be concerned about one thing- the clear fact that our “death” bowling has threatened to de-rail progress this time.
Ireland have won 2 from 2 and Simmons need only point to that to show that his way is the right way. He must be aware however that we have won those two games despite our death bowling rather than because of it.
To that end, and simply as someone who writes about cricket, I have to say I do not get the Craig Young situation. Craig went into this tournament as Ireland’s great white hope, touted, and not just in these quarters, as one to watch in the Antipodes. To date he hasn’t bowled a ball.
Max Sorensen, excellent bowler and fantastic servant to Phil over the years though he undoubtedly is, was called into the squad as a replacement for Tim Murtagh. Unless I’m missing something that would suggest Max was behind Craig, and indeed Peter Chase, in the pecking order.
If there is some consideration that we’re unaware of, like an injury then that clears things up, otherwise, like a lot of other people, I’m struggling to work out what changed in the week before the tournament started.
No doubt Craig will get his chance before the boys come home but if he wasn’t the first name on the sheet to bowl against the Emiratis, it seems a stretch to think he’s a confident choice to shoot down Amla, De Villiers and company.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the World Cup the one thing we can say for sure is that awareness of Irish cricket is once more at a new level.
Record numbers of people are falling out of bed (if indeed they have even made it that far) at ungodly hours of the morning to watch the Boys in Green. Twitter and Facebook has been awash with all-night commentary and Larry the Leprechaun and Lil Larry have headed a list of characters who have brightened up our screens in the past fortnight.
I have been engaging people who have never watched a cricket match in their lives but who revel in Ireland beating anyone at anything.
Most of all however, this World Cup looks set to strengthen the bonds between Unions in Irish cricket more than at any time in the past. It may not sound much of a victory but with a busy 2015 ahead in both International and Interprovincial terms, the fact that we’ve spent the winter cheering home the same horse has helped to cement relationships.
Individual issues taking a back seat while everyone is BackingGreen, so to speak.