After a mildly disappointing campaign in England last summer (read as: no giant killing except Bangladesh), the coming World 20/20 in the Caribbean presents more of an opportunity for Ireland than, in my opinion, the World Cup in 2007. The focus in terms of team selection has drifted away from 'imports' (remember Dave Langford-Smith and his funny jigs?) and onto creating a very solid base of young, homegrown players. Ireland have quickly progressed from a happy go-lucky mish mash, to a team that expects to be knocking on the big 8's door at every opportunity:
Leading from the front will be captain and opener William Porterfield. A young man with a very talented game, Porterfield has benefitted from becoming an integral part of Gloucestershire's team. Indeed he is one of the more dangerous openers operating on the domestic one day circuit. Porterfield possesses the ability to crunch even the best players through the on-side in the opening overs, and isn't afraid to go over the top either. Niall O'Brien is likely to be Porterfield's opening partner, and probably Ireland's most dangerous weapon. Another player who has developed very quickly thanks to a county contract, O'Brien, like Porterfield, can take opening bowlers apart and is agressive against the spinners too. Expect him to play as a specialist batsman despite his skills behind the stumps. Brian Sterling is possibly Ireland's most promising talents, and again has the ability to score quickly but also in an orthodox manner. He will be key to Ireland's batting, probably coming in at either 3 or 4.
Wicketkeeper: Despite O'Brien's skill as a wicketkeeper, I expect the gloves and probably the number 4 spot to go to Surrey's reserve wicketkeeper Gary Wilson. The 24 year old has become very talented with the bat and is capable of big scores. He will provide good solidity to the middle order.
The vocation of choice it seems, Ireland's allrounders come in all shapes, sizes, styles and age. Much will depend upon ex-captain and possibly one of the best associate players going, Trent Johnston. Johnston is has unbelievable accuacy with his medium pacers, and can strangle the life out of any batting line-up. His own skills with the bat are more than useful. Johnston has learnt to become the crisis man it seems for Ireland, often bailing the side out after a collapse. His six hitting capability makes him extremely dangerous in the final overs of a match. The other half of the O'Brien brothers, Kevin will also have an important role to play. Though he has struggled for form over the past 9 months, 'KOB' (I won't abbreviate Niall's name) is still renowned for his game changing skill, whilst he is able to give the impression he's batting on a pitch the size of a piece of paper. His bowling will be key in the middle overs, and if Porterfield so wishes, at the start of an innings too.
Another grizzled veteran in the Johnston style is Andre Botha. Botha has suffered horribly from injuries, but like Johnston he has nagging length dobblers to send down, and is no fool with the bat. A further allrounder in the team is Alex Cusack, who can bowl at a brisk pace and can clobber a few too.
Ireland possess one of the tallest fast bowlers in world cricket, Boyd Rankin, and if his back allows him, Rankin may well be amongst the wickets in the Caribbean. Though his performances have been limited, Rankin has impressed at Warwickshire, and did well in the 2007 World Cup. Capable of pace and bounce, Rankin will spearhead the attack. Peter Connell is likely to be Rankin's opening partner, and has excellent average (15.6) and economy (6.11) at international 20/20 level. Andrew White will provide the main spin option for Ireland, and will be hoping to score a few runs too. Also included in the squad is the 17 year old George Dockrell, who could well be a spin partner with White. Dockrell has impressed so far in 20/20 internationals, picking up 9 wickets at just over 10 with his slow left arm. The ever present John Mooney is also in the squad.
Further squad members: Nigel Jones, Gary Kidd (never heard of them)
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