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Cricket: Ireland can profit from Stirling display


Paul Stirling Photo: PA

Paul Stirling Photo: PA

Paul Stirling Photo: PA

PAUL STIRLING has a lot to live up to as he takes his World Cup bow in Dhaka this morning -- not only the high expectations of his team-mates but also the tag of being Ireland's answer to Virender Sehwag.

It is one thing to be nominated by your mates as far and away the most exciting young Irish talent around -- quite another to be spoken of in the same breath as the Indian superstar.

But the comparison has been made between a chunky opening batsman who hits the ball very hard from the off and Sehwag, who, like Stirling, can also bowl a useful few overs of off-spin.

Ed Joyce, back in the Ireland ranks after nearly six years chasing his Test match dream with England, has had a chance to work with the 20-year-old Belfast lad for the first time and is impressed with what he sees.

"He tries to play like Sehwag -- going for it from ball one," Joyce said. "He isn't that good yet, but of all the Irish players he is the one that could make it really big on the world stage."

Ireland wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien is another fan. "I have been lucky to play with and against top players all over the world and Paul has the most talent I have ever seen," he said. "He needs to nurture it but I know he wants success, so I believe he will do it."

'Stirlo,' as he is known in the Ireland dressing-room, has the rare and priceless ability to take a game away from opponents in a matter of overs with an array of shots that can be brutal as well as beautiful.

Ask Ed Rainsford how hard he hits it -- the Zimbabwean fast bowler tried to stop a straight drive from Stirling during a practice match last week and the damage to his ankle ended his World Cup before it had started.

If Stirling can bat for upwards of 30 overs against Bangladesh today Ireland will win -- it's as simple as that. He is in the same match-winning category as Kevin Pieterson, Chris Gayle and, yes, Sehwag himself.

The Indian opened his World Cup with a thunderous knock of 175 against Bangladesh on Saturday -- his highest one-day score.

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Stirling has already gone two better, making 177 against Canada in Toronto last September -- an innings that is not only an Ireland record, but the 13th highest in a one-day international.

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