ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
England v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
Ireland aim to take down the old enemy
Liam Brickhill in Bangalore
March 1, 2011
With their boisterous, fun-loving demeanour both on and off the pitch, Ireland were always going to be one of the Associate teams that, as AB de Villiers said, make the World Cup "more colourful". When captain Will Porterfield arrived for a pre-match press conference ahead of their encounter with England in Bangalore tomorrow, it quickly became apparent that that description could be applied quite literally too, as he took off his cap to reveal a shock of bright purple hair.
Porterfield on the difference between England and Ireland
"You're not imagining things," he explained, smiling. "The Irish Cancer Society and Today FM, a radio station back home, they run a 'Shave or Dye' campaign in February. It's just about raising awareness. There's a few interesting lids floating about, five of us dyed and a good few shaved. Boyd Rankin's got his own dyed blue as well, Kevin O'Brien's similar to me own and there's a bit of blonde in there. Anything we can do for the cancer society back home is good, it's for a good cause."
It would be wrong, of course, to interpret the team's jovial attitude as a sign that they're not taking this tournament seriously. They are, and having risen to level on points with Zimbabwe in the ICC's one-day rankings, there's no denying their status at the top of the Associate pile. They're at the threshold of full membership, and the team knows full well what slaying a couple of giants in this tournament would do for their case. More immediately, there's also the small matter of getting one over on the 'old enemy' - England.
"We need absolutely no motivation when facing the old enemy and I know how desperate everyone in the camp is to atone for what we see as our failure on Friday night," Porterfield wrote in his World Cup Diary on Sunday. "In many ways the game is like a local derby, and we know anything can happen on the day."
Shortly after Ireland's mid-morning practice session on a steaming hot day in Bangalore, Porterfield expounded further on what the game means for Ireland: "I think it is [a special occasion]. Any Irish sports team playing an English team is always pretty special for them, and especially to people back home. They always want to see us get one over on the English, so I'm sure there'll be plenty back home watching and hoping for a positive result from the Irish. Anyone can slip up on any particular day, but [England] are playing good cricket and we've just got to be on top of our own game."
Ireland are also under added pressure to take down one of the bigger teams after their 27-run loss to Bangladesh in Dhaka last week - a match they could easily have won. "To go through our group we're going to have to win probably three of our next five games, so every game is kind of a must-win from here on in," Porterfield said. "But we can't look too far ahead in terms of the result, we've just got to look at the process of how we get there and what we've got to put right from the last game and how we've got to go about our own game.
"The day after the game and that night the lads were pretty gutted. It's no lie, anyone that loses a game like that you're going to be pretty down, but that's professional sport. You've got to pick yourself up from the lows like that. It's no secret our batting let us down, there were a few soft dismissals in there. It's just a matter of being a bit tougher on ourselves. You can't afford to give away free wickets like that. It's just being cricket smart, there's nothing dramatic that has to change."
It may well be the bowlers, rather than the batsmen, who are more anxious ahead of Tuesday's game after watching 676 runs being scored in England's game against India at the same venue. Porterfield insisted he had confidence in Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell, perhaps the two most important members of his attack.
"[Rankin] has got all the attributes to be a fantastic bowler. He went for a few in Dhaka. They got a few away and that can happen to anyone on their day. I still think he's one of our main wicket-taking threats. He may go for a few runs but as we've seen in this tournament you've got to take wickets to peg things back and he's one of our main wicket-takers and I'm pretty confident he can bounce back.
"[Dockrell] is pretty new to the game. He only came in last year in the Twenty20 World Cup and was dropped in at the deep end in the West Indies. He hadn't had much experience before then, he had one Under-19 World Cup under his belt. He's taken everything in his stride, he's a pretty level-headed young guy. He's just finished school and he's done pretty well there as well.
They are utterly different species as bowlers, Dockrell a mantis-limbed left-arm spinner and Rankin a towering 6' 6" fast bowler, but they may well end up sharing the new ball. Spin has been introduced very early by several teams in this tournament, and it appeared Dockrell could be given the responsibility of exploiting Kevin Pietersen's much-discussed weakness against left-arm spin.
"Anything is possible, it's definitely an option for us," Porterfield admitted. "He's bowled in the Powerplays for us before, and he's bowled in the first six overs in Twenty20s so that's nothing new to him. He knows how to bowl with the new ball so that's definitely an option as well."
While obviously focussing on the present and the immediate challenge of taking on England, a team Ireland have never beaten, Porterfield is also well aware of his team's duty as pioneers of Irish cricket and the important position they occupy in Ireland's cricketing history.
"Cricket's been played in Ireland for a very long time now, since 1855 we've been playing cricket as a nation. We want to get to the stage where we become a full member ourselves and get into the Future Tours Programme. We want to get to the stage where lads don't have to make that call [to play for England] or have to move on and play that way. We want to be in a position where we can contract 12 to 15 full-time Irish cricketers.
"In an ideal scenario we'd have 15 lads contracted back in Dublin training day in, day out. It's obviously a financial thing, it's a fixtures thing, it's everything, but we're at the stage now where that's where we want to be and everyone's working towards that and hopefully we'll get there."
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