Passionate fans, charities and a round of golf
We’ve been in Dhaka for five days now and one can’t help but be totally overwhelmed by the passion of the fans in this cricket-mad country. I’m a Liverpool fan myself, and I remember standing in the Old Kop at Anfield during the last game before it was demolished. Ian Rush scored that day against Coventry and the surge of fans and the adrenalin of that charged atmosphere is something that will live for me forever. Those are the type of supporters that Bangladesh have.
At our training sessions there have been hundreds of fans crushing each other just in the hope of getting a glimpse of us. That shows you the type of standing cricket has here – we were just training, doing nothing out of the ordinary, and they turn up in droves – it’s just unbelievable.
On Saturday morning, eight of the squad went to visit Plan Bangladesh which is a charity which helps disadvantaged children in the developing world. We’re very aware of our responsibility as international cricketers to do as much as we can, and we’re getting involved with several charities while on tour. They include the Irish Cancer Society, Plan Ireland, The Hope Foundation, as well as the ICC Projects Room to Read and Thinkwise.
For me personally it was an amazing experience visiting the child shelter. I have to put my hand up admit I’m the first one to grumble when I have to make an early start to catch a flight. When you visit a project like this, it puts it all in perspective. The magnificent work that Plan Ireland and Bangladesh are doing just makes you fell so humble, and appreciate just how fortunate we are as cricketers, being pampered wherever we go.
I’m know it’s a bit of a cliché, but just to see the smiles on the kids faces really affected everyone, and you would have to be made of stone not to have been emotional when you see their plight. The experience will live with me forever – it was a great initiative for Cricket Ireland to get involved with, and it’s really inspiring to see the difference that Plan Bangladesh make to their lives.
We’ve been training hard here, with everyone raring to go ahead of the crucial clash with Bangladesh on Friday. It’s a game everyone wants to play in and any niggling injuries aren’t holding the guys back as they attempt to secure a berth in Phil Simmons starting XI.
The facilities here in Dhaka are first class, with everything we could wish for. We’ve a fantastic support staff behind us, and they’re preparing us as best as they can for the World Cup ahead. That’s been the feature this time for me compared to 2007 – the amount of work that’s gone in with all the training camps, and facilities and resources at our disposal.
It was Pete Johnston’s (our assistant coach) birthday on Sunday so we had a bit of a celebration for him, with a cake and the players singing happy birthday. We’re a really close bunch of players and we try and cheer everyone up. Touring can be a difficult time for everyone, and it’s not easy spending so much time away from family, so it’s important that everyone is in good spirits. We’ve fostered a camaraderie within our ranks that’s second to none as far as I’m concerned. We’re proud to be wearing the green of Ireland, and we’re all in it together as we step onto the field.
On our afternoon off, after training, myself and Gary Wilson took on Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling in a four-ball at a nearby golf course which was truly sensational. I have to admit it was a bit weird playing the first hole with ten security guards with machine guns lined up on the tee – talk about pressure! Although our opposition and young Stirlo in particular started off like a train, they wilted in the conditions, and the old firm of Wilson and yours truly grabbed the honours – 2 up.
Back to cricketing matters and for those of you who mightn’t be too familiar with our team, I thought I’d give you a run down on who to watch out for in the coming weeks.
I’ll start with the bowlers first and Boyd Rankin who made such an impression in 2007. He’s going to be a really key player for us with his extra height and the steepling bounce that he can generate. We’ve seen in the games so far just how openers are taking on attacks first up and using the extra pace on the ball. We’re hoping Boyd can take early wickets and force teams to consolidate. On his day Boyd has the ability to be right up there with any of the top bowlers in world cricket, and he’ll trouble the best of them when he clicks.
He’ll be partnered by Trent Johnston who will bowl tight lines and is one of our most consistent performers. I’d back him to do well in all our games. George Dockrell, the youngest player in the tournament did exceptionally well for us in the Twenty20 games. Nothing seems to faze him and he’s got an experienced head on his young shoulders.
On the batting side of things, I’ve mentioned it before, but Paul Stirling is an unbelievable talent. He’s my favourite player to watch in world cricket when he’s in full flow, and I’d pay good money to watch him at his best. I hope fans all over the world get to see that for themselves during the competition.
Ed Joyce is back in the fold and it’s as if he’s never been away – a seamless transition if you like. He’s a class act and brings a level-headedness and a maturity that will strengthen our side considerably. We bat right down but those two along with William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien will score runs for us.
Till next time when hopefully I’ll be able to bring news of a victory in our first match.