Thursday 19 October 2017

Ireland desperate to face big guns

William Porterfield wants Ireland to get more chances to play full-member nations
William Porterfield wants Ireland to get more chances to play full-member nations

Captain William Porterfield believes Ireland's quest to become more than just World Cup giant-killers is being hamstrung by a chronic lack of matches against full-member nations.

Ireland have built a reputation for causing shocks on the big stage only to then, in the intervening fours years, slip back into the relative wilderness of associate cricket.

Porterfield blames that on a lack of desire from other nations to play Ireland outside the major tournaments.

Since the last World Cup in 2011 - when Ireland famously upset England in Bangalore - they have played just nine one-day internationals against full-member nations.

It is a scenario that Porterfield believes is holding back a nation that, under Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom, has been proactive in nearly all departments but for the key exercise of playing international matches.

"We need fixtures. We're crying out for that," Porterfield said.

"We need that kind of support. As a player it is very frustrating. We've talked about World Cups and they're four years apart. We've played nine games against top-eight teams since 2011.

"Nine games in four years is nothing really. We need to be playing more."

Last month the International Cricket Council handed Ireland the chance to qualify for the 2019 World Cup directly for the first time, should they raise their ranking into the top eight by a cut-off date of September 30, 2017.

Under the system Ireland, and Afghanistan, will no longer play in the World Cricket League Championship - the 50-over tournament for associate and affiliate nations - and instead against the other 10 full-member nations.

Porterfield points out, however, that unless Ireland play more matches that any new pathway to the World Cup will effectively be closed off to them anyway.

"If we play the same amount of fixtures we have in the past four years we're no chance because we're not going to qualify through nine games," he said.

Asked why he thought other nations were not playing Ireland, Porterfield added: "I'm not sure, I can't put my finger on it. Warren and the people behind the board have done a fantastic amount to try and organise fixtures, but I'm guessing it is up to boards to agree to play us.

"We've got an open door to anyone so I'm guessing teams aren't agreeing to play us."

Only half of the full-member nations have met Ireland in an ODI since the 2011 World Cup.

Perhaps most significantly neither Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, the two lowest-ranked full-member countries, have played against Ireland in that time.

Since the last World Cup Bangladesh have played 49 ODIs, and Zimbabwe 36, while they have met each other in 13 games. World champions India, who have not played Ireland either since lifting the trophy, have totalled 100 ODIs and toured to both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Any reluctance to meet Ireland could be put down to the fact there is little for opposing nations to gain in playing them and there might even be more to lose.

Under the ICC's new World Cup qualification pathway that should change but, with rankings points now to defend, it remains to be seen just how willing those teams above Ireland will be to meet them, especially on Irish soil where they need international matches to continue to grow the game.

"I'm not asking for seven game fixtures against Australia or India, we've got to be playing teams around us first and foremost and more often which we're not getting," Porterfield added.

"Hopefully being in this top 12 we'll get this opportunity. That's what we need and the proof is going to be in the pudding over the next 12-18 months if we get these fixtures."

Ireland will get the chance to play at least six ODIs over the next six weeks as they look to defy the odds and get out of their group for the second time in the past three tournaments.

With Zimbabwe, the lowest-ranked full-member nation, in Group B along with an under-strength West Indies that would appear a possibility.

Ireland meet West Indies first in Nelson on November 17 in a game that could shape their chances and when asked what would constitute a good World Cup, Porterfield said: "Getting out of our group. We've done that on previous occasions in different formats of World Cups.

"That's first and foremost, that's our goal to get through that and reassess from there.

"Once you get through your group you are in straight knockout games. That's the priority for ourselves to get into that top four."

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