World Cup 2015 February 10, 2015

'I was enthralled and just wanted to get there'

Ed Joyce, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson and Kevin O'Brien talk through their World Cup memories and pick out their stars - past and future - of ODI cricket

What is your earliest World Cup memory?

Ed Joyce: I would probably say it's Mike Gatting's reverse sweep against Australia in the final in 1987. That would be my earliest memory.

Paul Stirling: It'd probably have to be the 2007 one, where Ireland beat Pakistan in the group stage. I just remember that was the one where I watched every ball that was going and obviously Ireland were in it for the first time that I'd seen, so I was catching up on everything we were doing.

Gary Wilson: I think it was England not doing very well in the 1999 World Cup. It was in England. I was a Surrey fan growing up, which is a bit weird, because I ended up playing for them and I remember going around to my mate's house to watch Thorpe and Stewart etc in that World Cup, and I think they were knocked out pretty early.

Kevin O'Brien: Probably would have been 1999, I think, in England. Just watching it on TV. It was the first real World Cup where I sat down and watched most of the games. I was very fortunate to go to one of the games, which was held in Clontarf, West Indies v Bangladesh. That was probably the first time I'd seen professional cricket at its best. I was enthralled by it and I just wanted to get to there myself.

Who will be the breakthrough player in this World Cup?

Joyce: From our team, Andrew Balbirnie. He's come in over the last couple of months and taken us by storm, and he wasn't ever a certainty in our 15 for the World Cup even a couple of months ago, so he'd be my pick from our team. I'll also go for Haris Sohail from Pakistan. I think he's done well in the past six months and I think he'll go well in the World Cup.

Stirling: In our side we've got Andrew Balbirnie, who's just come up the ranks and he's just timed his run perfectly. It's his first World Cup but he's probably the batsman in the best nick at the minute so hopefully he gets a chance to show what he's all about.

Wilson: I'd love to see one of our lads. I know Paul Stirling is well keen to have a big World Cup. I wouldn't necessarily say that people don't know about him but I think he can really put his name forward in this World Cup.

O'Brien: From our team I think it might be Andrew Balbirnie. He's got a great opportunity to score some vital runs for us in the middle of the order. He's been in great form over the last three or four months and he's really excited and looking forward to stamping his authority on the pitch. Further afield, there are a couple of young guys in the English squad who have impressed in the last while. I think James Taylor is in good form as well and Moeen Ali, he's batting and bowling well.

Who is the best death bowler you've seen?

Joyce: I'm going to go with a couple of my Sussex colleagues - Yasir Arafat, or James Kirtley, who's played for England.

Stirling: We haven't faced Sri Lanka much but obviously watching Lasith Malinga on TV, he gets his yorkers in really well and his slower ball is very dangerous. We seem to miss out on Sri Lanka a few times so hopefully we'll get them in the knockout stage after the group stage. It'd be nice to face him.

Wilson: Brett Lee would have to be up there with the best, I reckon, just from what he's done.

Who are Ireland going to play in the final?

EJ: It's got to be Australia.

PS: Australia or South Africa would be the two strong favourites to get there.

GW: It'd be great if get to the final. I fancy New Zealand and Australia to both have big tournaments. Obviously New Zealand are playing really well at the minute, and the Aussies in their own backyard.

O'Brien: It would be great if it was either Ireland v England or Ireland v Australia.

Who is the most destructive batsman you've seen?

Joyce: It'd have to be Dave Warner.

Stirling: I always liked watching Virender Sehwag I'd say. He hits it really well through the off side and always did really well in the big competitions. It's nice watching him.

Wilson: AB de Villiers would probably be the name at the minute.

O'Brien: Probably Chris Gayle. I think with the power he has, he's twice as powerful as I am, and if he gets going it's going to be quite scary for bowlers in this tournament. The grounds, especially in New Zealand are probably a little bit smaller than here in Australia, so there could be some big sixes.

What's the best World Cup match you can remember?

Joyce: I would say Ireland against Pakistan in 2007. I was playing for a different team at that World Cup, and just watching the guys, there was such passion. The whole crowd seemed to be Irish and it was Ireland's first big victory at a World Cup.

Stirling: I can't really look past the Ireland v England one in 2011, when we won. It's certainly been the best one I've been involved in. Big Kev's quickest hundred in World Cup history - I can't really go past that.

Wilson: Ireland beating England in the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore is probably my best memory of a World Cup game and one of the best innings you'll ever see, from Kev. We were almost down and out and he turned that game around. It was brilliant.

O'Brien: Any game I've played in. I'd say the best game I've seen that I haven't played in would be either the India v England game in Bangalore, the tied game, or else the Australia v South Africa, the run-out in the semi-final in 1999. That was epic TV.

Have you ever had a proper job?

Joyce: Nope. Not one. Good question, though!

Stirling: No proper job yet and hopefully no proper job for a wee while.

Wilson: No, I haven't. I was at school until I was 18 and then I moved straight into county cricket. Actually it was the MCC Young Cricketers.

O'Brien: Yeah, I used to work in a restaurant. I was in the kitchen cleaning the pots and pans when I was 16. I really, really enjoyed it and I suppose that's where I got my love of cooking from. I like to try to cook and experiment in the kitchen. I watch a lot of television cooking shows like Masterchef.

Who is the best finisher?

Joyce: I'll go for Michael Bevan. He's my sort of era.

Stirling: AB de Villiers. I just think he's one of the best players in the world at the minute.

GW: It's hard to look past Michael Hussey, for Australia. Certainly in my era he'd be considered the best.

O'Brien: Probably MS Dhoni. The cool head that he has and in a run chase, if he's there at the end, India are winning most games.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo; Melinda Farrell is a correspondent

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