UAE skipper Ahmed Raza on Wednesday said he gained a lot by training along the likes of Virat Kohli during the IPL and hoped the experience would come handy when his team takes on Ireland in the upcoming ODI series in Abu Dhabi.
Raza along with wrist spinner Karthik Meiyappan trained with the Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL held in the UAE in September last year, while seamer Zahoor Khan spent time with the Mumbai Indians team.
"The IPL was massive. The experience you get over there training with the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and bowling to them is great. We felt like we'd gained a lot when we left the IPL," he told reporters during a virtual press conference ahead of series beginning on January 8.
"It's hard to put into words, but you start feeling different, and you're different in your approach as well. I hope that whatever we learned in that period, we can showcase in our performances in this series." Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie hoped to see his country's players bag IPL contracts but said they would have to perform consistently to play in the lucrative league.
"IPL is the best T20 league in the world with the best players in the world. In IPL, you get to talk to the best players, best coaches in the world. And the exposure a player gets is massive," he said.
No Irish cricketer has managed to earn an IPL contract so far.
"... to get that opportunity we need to put in performances for Ireland like we did in England and get to the top of the table more often, performances like that on a regular basis so that teams can see what we can offer to them," he said.
The Ireland captain underscored the significance of every ODI game and said it was important to hit the ground running in the upcoming series against UAE.
"All ODIs are important for us, all series are important. We don't take any game for granted. There are seven games coming up (four vs UAE and three against Afghanistan). We have got to hit ground running, we are aware that we haven't played for some time. UAE are a very dangerous team," he said.
Balbirnie said all players were available for selection and they were following all the COVID-19 protocols including tests.
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"Yeah, everyone is available.. the tests are going on. We are going through all the protocols. We just mainly trained since we came here, managed to keep ourselves busy...a lot of cricket coming up in the next 2-3 weeks," he said.
Ireland's star player Kevin O'Brien, on his part, recalled the fantastic win in the final match of the three-match ODI series against England in August.
"Everyone in the squad played very well in that win (against England in Southampton). Paul (Stirling) and Andy (Balbirnie) batted very well to set up the run chase before we (me and Harry Tector) finished it ... full team effort.
"Great opportunity for us to play against two very good sides-UAE and Afghanistan. Looking to get back into the thick of things in international cricket," he added.
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UAE skipper Raza said his team has a good mix of youth and experience.
"You want to win every game you play, and this series is no different. We want to win all the games and win the series. We're playing in our own backyard and looking at the squad, there's a good mix of youth and experience," he said.
"We have to keep an eye on the 2023 World Cup down the line. Looking at the four or five youngsters in the squad, they all played in the Under-19 World Cup and put in performances."
The four-match ODI series will be telecast live in India on Eurosport and Eurosport HD channels.
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