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September 23, 2012
Trent Johnston, the Ireland bowler who has been at the heart of many of their greatest performances, has marked what could be his farewell match in a major tournament by condemning the reluctance of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to play them and put at risk their international status.
Ireland must beat West Indies at the R Premadasa stadium on Monday night to reach the Super Eights and their cause has not been helped by sickness that has been raging through the squad. Ed Joyce was the first player to suffer from a gastric illness which has since laid low half-a-dozen players and members of the coaching staff.
Johnston was one of those who did make the final training session but he was in a far from conciliatory mood, resentful over perpetual references to Ireland as 'minnows' and the barriers that he believes exist to limit Ireland's chances of joining the game's elite.
"Why don't Bangladesh and Zimbabwe want to play us?" he asked. "I know why, because they're scared that we'll beat them and that we'll go above them in the rankings. I know that for a fact.
"And the other guys simply can't play us because they've got programmes left, right and centre and IPL, BPL and Big Bash, blah, blah, blah. So I can understand that the big boys play too much cricket and that they ask how they can squeeze a series in with Ireland. But something has got to be done, because we don't want to be at this 'minnow' level as well, which is what the commentators call us.
"We're associate cricketers and we're aware of that, we're not 'minnows'. I'm sick of hearing 'minnow' on the TV. It's disrespectful to the guys that are here training and putting the work in and it's disrespectful to the people back in Ireland and back in Afghanistan and the others in the associate levels who put so much time and effort into cricket.
"Bangladesh and Zimbabwe aren't 'minnows' either. They're Full Member countries and they've been called 'minnows' in this World Cup and personally I'm just sick and tired of it."
Niall O'Brien looked around Ireland's depleted numbers at practice at the P Sara Stadium and admitted: "It's not ideal but from a personal point of view I have been sick before and you sometimes find new a resolve. It's a Twenty20 and there will be a lot of adrenalin so hopefully that will overcome any illness in the camp."
Ireland have it in their power to plot an unlikely route to the Super Eights because of Australia's victory against West Indies on Saturday night, which swung Australia's way by some rousing strokeplay from Shane Watson and David Warner before heavy rain forced a premature end.
Ireland's own defeat against Australia had involved some testy on-field exchanges with both these batsmen. O'Brien recognised the irony that Ireland's two Australian bête noirs had come to their rescue.
"Watson and Warner weren't the most popular in the Irish camp a few days earlier but they played really well and it was a great result for us and give us a pick-me-up," he said. "West Indies are specialists in this form of the game, travelling the world to play T20, so it is not going to be easy. They can obviously be destructive but they also have the ability to get out as well."
West Indies have been stunned into near-silence by the manner of their defeat against Australia. They brought the tournament alive by scoring 191 for 8, encouraging all those who had termed them tournament favourites, but then bowled dreadfully as Australia made 100 for 1 in 9.1 overs in reply.
Ireland know that with unsettled weather around that Duckworth Lewis could again come into play and that all manner of eventualities might even up the contest. It is a thought that does not find too much favour with Darren Sammy, West Indies captain. "I think the crowd wants a 20-over match," he said. "So hopefully the weather stays good and we get a full game."
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