Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie's quarantine birthday and first interview ahead of UAE and Afghanistan series
All of Ireland Men’s players and support staff have successfully completed their initial quarantine and testing protocols after their arrival in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, and have held their first outdoor training session at the Zayed Cricket Stadium complex ahead of next week’s one-day international series against the UAE.
The squad has been self-isolating in their hotel since arrival and were required to undertake three COVID-19 tests each – which have all come back negative. The 16-man squad will prepare for the four-match series against the UAE with daily training sessions and a warm-up match against a UAE XI on 4 January. The UAE series will then be followed by a three-match ODI series against Afghanistan which will be part of the World Cup Super League.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Wednesday, was speaking from the team hotel:
“It’s nice to be out here, but celebrating a birthday in quarantine is not something I ever thought I’d have to do.”
“The UAE is a nice place to tour, and I think the last time we played Afghanistan here in ODIs we beat them. We can draw a lot of confidence from that, as there are guys here that were involved in that series.”
“I think we have a good chance, we're going to go out and try win all three games in that series - that's the aim we have for any series in this World Cup Super League. But to do that here, we need to play good cricket, and that will need to start with the four-match series against the UAE.”
About the squad, he said:
“I was asked about my ‘building a team’, but I don’t feel that’s exactly what we are doing. As players, we've all got to make sure we're putting in performances that warrant us playing for Ireland. The guys coming into the squad for the first time are aware of that - but it's a good environment to be in at the moment. Saying that, it'll only remain a good environment if players are putting in good performances and we're winning games. That's what it comes down to in the end.”
“I know that as a batter you always want to be in form, but the most important thing is that once you find form you need to continue to perform, to try as be as consistent as possible. Fortunately a few of our batsmen are doing that, but we haven't played in a while, so we will have to find our form again pretty quickly out here, and keep it for the duration of the tour.”
About the Afghan challenge, he said:
“There's no doubt that their spinners are a big threat - they have been ever since they burst onto the scene. But the beauty of playing Afghanistan quite regularly is that you get used to their spinners and understand better how to play them and score off them. They'll still be a threat in these conditions but I feel that we have the skillset in our batting line-up to counteract that.”
Asked whether the bio-bubble conditions are expected to cause any impact on players, he said:
“I don't think it's a particular advantage to either side really - we spend so much time in hotels anyway when travelling abroad. It's slightly different here in that we can't leave the hotel, but it will be the same for the Afghan players. Many of their players have also played in leagues around the world already this year so they will be well used to the bio-bubble environment.”
“I think it will come down down to who turns up on each game day - and hopefully, by the end, we'll come away with more league points than them.”
The international fixtures, which will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, are:
- UAE v Ireland – 1st ODI – 8 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 2nd ODI – 10 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 3rd ODI – 12 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 4th ODI – 14 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 1st ODI – 18 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 2nd ODI – 21 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 3rd ODI – 23 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
The matches against Afghanistan will be part of the World Cup Super League (see below for details).
LIVESTREAM / BROADCAST
Matches will be livestreamed via Youtube in Ireland / UK, with further details made available closer to the match days. For the rest of the world, the series with either be shown on satellite television or livestreamed, so please check local guides.
The Ireland Men’s squad is:
- Andrew Balbirnie (C), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, David Delany, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Kevin O’Brien, Neil Rock, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.
WORLD CUP SUPER LEAGUE
Matches played as part of the inaugural ICC Cricket World Cup Super League (2020-2023) are essentially World Cup Qualifier matches, as the League will serve as part of the 2023 Cricket World Cup Qualification process.
The WCSL features thirteen teams, the twelve Full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), and the Netherlands (who won the 2015–17 ICC World Cricket League Championship to qualify for this competition). Each team will play an ODI series against eight of the twelve opponents, four series at home and four away. Each series will consist of three ODIs. For the World Cup, the hosts (India in 2023), and the top seven-ranked sides thereafter, will qualify automatically. The remaining five teams will play in a qualifying event along with five Associate sides, from which two sides will go through to the final tournament.