Monday 18 December 2017

Cricket: Ireland not focussing on proving a point

Ireland coach Phil Simmons Photo: Getty Images
Ireland coach Phil Simmons Photo: Getty Images

Matt Somerford

Ireland coach Phil Simmons has denied his team will be out to prove a point to the International Cricket Council when they host Pakistan in two one-day internationals in Belfast this long weekend.

Ireland were left out in the cold by the ICC in April when the governing body decided not to include any associate nations at the next World Cup in 2015.

The decision was met with widespread condemnation with the Irish seemingly the most aggrieved after their recent strides at the top level, which most memorably included a thrilling World Cup win over England, were overlooked.

In the face of the criticism the ICC have pledged to review their decision with a chief executive meeting set to discuss the prospect of introducing a qualification process in Hong Kong next month.

This weekend's matches are therefore Ireland's only opportunity to push their case forward on the field before that meeting, but Simmons has refused to paint the games as crucial to their hopes of winning over the ICC.

"I don't see these matches as a case of proving the ICC wrong, I think the cricket world knows that it is the wrong decision," Simmons told Press Association Sport.

"We will go out there and prove things to ourselves that we can beat these top teams.

"The more we beat them the closer we will get to what we want to achieve which is getting higher in the world rankings.

"I don't want to put that pressure no my team that we have to prove something to the ICC.

"Everybody knows what is happening.

"Hopefully we can just keep getting better and if that means we can win these two games and show that we are able to beat these teams then that will help us."

The ICC's decision to cull the associate nations for the next World Cup in Australia came after this year's showpiece was undermined by the under performance of the so-called 'minnows'.

While most associates were content just to survive Ireland were the exception, with Kevin O'Brien's thumping century against England one of the iconic moments of the tournament.

Simmons believes such displays have also earned the respect of the full-member nations - itself a strong case for their World Cup inclusion.

"The big teams think about us a bit more now," the former West Indies all-rounder said.

"I don't think they come and just play us without discussing us.

"I think they may have done that a year ago, but now they will plan for us better so we have to be on our game.

"We've crossed a stage since last year where we go into games now planning to win, not planning to survive.

"We've got to that stage now where we know we can win games against these guys.

"It's not a case of 'are we going to make 200?' but 'how are we going to win the game?'"

Simmons is confident his side can back up those words and claim at least one win at Stormont this weekend, starting with tomorrow's opener.

The World Cup semi-finalists arrived in Belfast yesterday, straight from their tour of the Caribbean, and Simmons believes the sudden change in temperature and conditions will work in his side's advantage.

"I think the weather can help us," said Simmons, who will be without the services of wicketkeeper-batsman Niall O'Brien due to injury.

"If it's as cold as this then there is always that little bit of an advantage.

"The main thing here is that they've seen us play in our conditions, and we are good in these conditions. We are hard to beat.

"We almost beat Australia in Dublin last year. Since then we've got more confidence, you saw that in the World Cup, and if we can play with that confidence we can win for sure."

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