Andy Balbirnie is relishing the prospect of playing in front of a noisy full house of 9,000 at Malahide tomorrow, albeit that most of the noise will be coming from Indian fans as Ireland host the world’s No 1 side in the first of two T20 internationals.
“There is a special buzz playing in front of a crowd like that,” the Ireland captain said. “The experience will be amazing for the players and the Irish fans, and it will be a great advertisement for our cricket.”
While India will be without superstars Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, who are in England preparing for the final Test match of a series that started last year, it will still be a major shock if Ireland can win even one of the two games.
Indeed, a team of T20 specialists and squad members led by Hardik Pandya could prove even tougher opposition as players look to catch the selectors’ eye ahead of the T20 World Cup which gets under way in Australia in October.
Balbirnie’s focus is also on the autumn, and 12 home matches this summer against India, New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan should help him settle on a more successful formula in Ireland’s weakest form of the international game.
“We want the guys to know their roles and know them pretty well so we’re not tinkering with things going into the World Cup,” he said.
“We want to pick our 15 best players for Australia, and we want to give the guys the opportunities to stake claims and not put them in and out of teams as that’s hard for continuity.”
With raw pace and wrist spin key components of T20, Ireland have called up Conor Olphert, a tearaway quick from the north-west, and will be looking to all-rounder Gareth Delany to bowl more of his under-rated leggies.
The emphasis on seam bowling for the games against India (the second is on Tuesday) means Simi Singh, a regular for the past six years, will miss out against his countrymen.
“Simi knows he is an integral part of our set-up but we’ve gone with the one spinner this time, and that’s Andy McBrine,” Balbirnie said.