Test cricket high on Ireland’s agenda

Coached by former New Zealand Test cricketer John Bracewell, Ireland is aspiring to perform well in the World T20 qualifiers at the HPCA Stadium and make it to the main draw.

Ireland will look to make an impact in the shortest version of the game.   -  Getty Images

Making it to the league of Test playing nations may be the ultimate goal for Ireland but the lesser-known team looks forward to make an impact by doing well in the shortest version of the game.

Coached by former New Zealand Test cricketer John Bracewell, Ireland is aspiring to perform well in the World T20 qualifiers at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium here and make it to the main draw.

“The landscape in associate cricket (nations) is changing very quickly with the new qualification structures. It is very difficult for associates to qualify for the (50-over) World Cup, so this (World T20) is the only realistic structure that is in place for them to qualify. Most of them are focusing on this as this is the only World stage that’s available,” Bracewell said after Irelands practice session here on Monday.

Of course, the bigger target for Ireland, which has some players with the experience of playing for English counties, is to play the five-day format. “Ireland is trying to qualify for Test cricket and also maintain a one-day profile. We still have a chance to qualify for the next World Cup (2019) so we are looking at three formats. Now, with our resources, that is difficult because we are on very, very limited budget. The Test sides have a minimum $ 10 million budget.”

Since taking over as Ireland's head coach last year, Bracewell, who has scored 1001 runs and taken 102 wickets in 41 Test matches, has been working to help the side achieve its mission of playing Test cricket in a few years time. “We are trying to budget for an 'A' programme. It is an important part of our progression. It has shown fruit with New Zealand and we need to make the same investment. We are looking as hard as we possibly can under the constraints we have. We know we have to create depth and have a strong bench. We are not far away from that but then again everybody is doing the same thing.”

Andy Balbirnie, a prominent batsman of the Irish side, said the game was growing rapidly in his country. “It is a big game. It has sparked interest around the country. Places that would never play cricket are now playing. There is a new structure in place for the last three-four years. There is a lot of passion about teams doing well. If our team puts up a good performance here, then it will get better and grow more,” said Balbirnie.

Indian player injured

An under-23 seamer Mahesh Thakur got injured while bowling during the nets session of the Ireland cricket team.

The local player, who was bowling to Stuart Poynter, got hit on his right eyebrow by one of the shots of the Irishman and bled profusely. He was immediately given first aid and was rushed to a hospital.