The World Cup is not even a week old, but the grumblings about bloated schedules and minnows devaluing the tournament are in full force. To an extent, they are fair given the performance of Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe. So far, only the Dutch have done a terrific job of providing a contest; but I will reserve my judgment till Ireland get their campaign going.
If there is one ‘minnow’ team capable of putting up a contest in every game, it is Ireland. They made their World Cup debut in 2007 and had a dream run, starting off with a tie against Zimbabwe and in the biggest upset in World Cup history – knocked out Pakistan through a thrilling 3 wicket win.
While the subcontinent heavyweights returned home in shame, a bunch of amateur cricketers (who had the least experience in the tournament but made up for it with sheer joy and love of the game), entered the Super 8s, to face the big boys. Inevitably, they faced tougher games and bowed out before the knock-out stage; but not before defeating another Test playing nation in the form of Bangladesh. They returned home, much later than they would have imagined, but with a story to tell their grandkids in the future.
Four years on, lots has changed. The profile of cricket has changed in Ireland. All except two are professional cricketers, in the squad. Now, they come with expectations to not just compete, but to claim at least one big scalp. Considering that they have West Indies and Bangladesh in their group, it is not an unrealistic proposition.
Their recent form may have been patchy, but there is no doubt that in the likes of Botha, Dockrell, Johnston, Joyce, the O’Brien brothers, Porterfield and Rankin – they have the players to rise up to the occasion, and join the Dutch in giving the ICC something to think about.
To know more about Team Ireland, click here.