Irish captain Trent Johnston is exhorting his young bunch of hopefuls to make a fight of it in the two matches they have against India and South Africa in Belfast.
Johnston, whose winning hit for six against Pakistan left an indelible mark on the World Cup in the West Indies, said on Friday that these matches at home could be the beginning of a new era for cricket in Ireland.
“We’ve got a new coach (Phil Simmons, the former West Indies batsman) who is bringing new things to the table and a group of young players with new ideas,” Johnston said. “We’re looking to rebuild but the fact that we still have a strong squad shows we’ve got a lot of depth.”
Johnston did not make an effort to hide the fact that his bunch was in awe of the tourists, especially the Indians, who are the only Test-playing nation they have not played before. “The young lads get to test themselves against legends of the game like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid,” he said. “Just to say you have faced those players is incredible and every one of our lads is looking forward to it.”
They would be, especially the younger lot in the team. Roger Whelan, Gary Kidd, Alex Cusack and Thinus Fourie have just five international appearances between them and have the full support of their captain. “At the World Cup, people questioned where the next generation of Irish cricketers would come from — well, here they are!” Johnston said.
They are here, but not quite there in world cricket. The weekend might well give an indication of exactly where Irish cricket stands and where it might go.