Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
What a difference a year makes. It was only a year ago that we were within a whisker of a cricket World Cup quarter-final against either New Zealand or Australia. Roll on to now and we lose two out of three games at the WT20 in India to send us on the earliest possible flight back to Dublin. What went wrong?
A question to this day that I’m still struggling to answer. We had some mixed results throughout the winter that dented our confidence slightly, but in terms of preparation leading up to the tournament, it couldn’t have gone much better.
The nets and middle practices were competitive and there were spots up for grabs. Everyone knew that added spice to our sessions, and we were all immensely enjoying the fact that we were in cricket crazy India competing on the biggest stage again.
Although not playing, the half an hour following our opening game defeat to Oman was one of the worst feelings I’ve had since playing for Ireland. How did that happen? Not taking anything away from Oman and what they had achieved, but we should be beating them on every occasion and we all knew it. Because we set such high standards for ourselves when it comes to all formats of our cricket, whenever we fail to live up to them, it is a hard pill to swallow but not one that we will shy away from.
If I had a euro for every time I heard or read that this team is past its best or that it’s the end of an era etc etc, I’d be far wealthier than any of the big stars at the IPL. If all the cricket experts out there were at every session we have throughout the year, they will see that we still thrive to get better each and every day and three or four bad results doesn’t change that. Of course we have been blessed with the calibre of players on offer over the last number of years, I won’t name names but you can work it out yourself.
I firmly believe having seen at first hand that once this ‘golden generation’ moves on, we will have the ingredients to carry the baton on for the next number of years and keep raising the bar of Irish cricket. I know the lads will want to put it right at the first opportunity and that starts with Sri Lanka in Dublin this month. It’s another great opportunity to show off our skills against one of the top sides in our own backyard.
Personally I’m delighted to see Barry McCarthy get an opportunity in his first full call-up. Ever since playing underage cricket at Pembroke Cricket Club, there was always something special about him. He has been in fantastic form for Durham and there aren’t many cricketers who work as hard as he does. We are yet to beat a ‘full member’ nation at home and with two further ODIs against Pakistan in August, it is an ideal summer for the lads to show the Irish public that it is an exciting time to be an Ireland cricket supporter.
We have the players who can bounce back from the disappointments of the winter and steer us back on track to the standards we expect as international cricketers. This summer will be strange on a personal level as looking on from the side won’t be easy. It’s frustrating times I know, but there is also a sense of excitement to see what this side and many of the upcoming youngsters can achieve over the coming months.
Column by Andy Balbirnie