Wednesday 21 February 2018

Porterfield wants Ireland to face big boys more often


Ireland cricket captain William Porterfield
Ireland cricket captain William Porterfield Newsdesk Newsdesk

THE next eight days will be crucial for Irish cricket - on and off the field.

Warm-up matches against Scotland (tomorrow) and Bangladesh (Thursday) in Sydney, followed by an opening World Cup encounter with the West Indies in New Zealand next Monday, will either help or hinder Ireland's progress towards Test match status.

Granted so few opportunities to showcase the game at home and internationally, Ireland simply have to produce every time on the world stage and that frustrates captain William Porterfield, who chose a pre-tournament press conference in Sydney to underline the difficulties facing his team, despite stand-out World Cup wins over Pakistan and England in the past eight years.

"Since the last World Cup we've played nine games against top teams in four years which is nothing really," said Porterfield. "It's frustrating from the players' point of view to have the World Cup highlighted so much in terms of performances and how Irish cricket progresses.

"We need to play more against the top sides in between World Cups. We're guaranteed six group matches in the space of a few weeks here and there is so much focus on that, it's frustrating from my point of view."

Of those six matches, the two that really matter are the first, against the West Indies in Nelson, and the last, against Pakistan in Adelaide.

Win either and Ireland have a good chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Lose both and not only would the boys in green almost certainly be flying home on St Patrick's Day. That would also make finding a long-term sponsor much harder.

The loss of RSA's patronage has not yet fully impacted on the Cricket Ireland backroom set-up, while the Tourism Ireland sponsorship is only for the World Cup so cutbacks would appear inevitable unless significant new support is forthcoming.

More high-profile matches would help attract a sponsor and also give Ireland a chance to climb up the ODI rankings ladder, but there is no compulsion or incentive for the 11 teams above them - the 10 Test-playing nations plus Afghanistan - to schedule series.

Since losing to Ireland at the 2007 World Cup, Bangladesh have played two ODIs in Belfast in 2010 and avoided all other attempts to arrange a 50-over game, never mind series, away from their own soil.

That is why Thursday's warm-up clash in Sydney will be almost as important as any of the six World Cup group games that follow.

If Ireland can beat Scotland and Bangladesh convincingly this week and put up a strong performance against the West Indies, it will confirm that the ship is still on course.

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