Balbirnie hopes Ireland can feed off Malahide crowd against India

Captain is looking forward to seeing 10-11,000 fans for T20Is

Deivarayan Muthu
Andy Balbirnie is 'pretty excited' to face India  •  Peter Della Penna

Andy Balbirnie is 'pretty excited' to face India  •  Peter Della Penna

England's new era, under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, kicked off in grand style this summer. Their neighbors Ireland are also bracing for something similar following the departures of former captain William Porterfield and former coach Graham Ford. Even their most capped T20I player Kevin O'Brien won't feature in this series as he's part of the support staff at Italy cricket.
Ireland's big home summer begins with a turning of the page. The India series, which starts on Sunday, will be the first under new coach Heinrich Malan and will be followed by visits from New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan. So needless to say the Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie, who got married last weekend, is looking steadfastly forward.
"Pretty excited," he said. "It's always nice when you get to the ground and get to see the stands, get out in the middle and kind of get used to the surroundings. Yeah, we had an enjoyable summer last year, we were able to play in front of a few people, even more expected next week, so the guys are really excited."
Balbirnie marvelled at India's depth - their T20I squad is in Ireland while the Test side is currently playing a tour game in Leicester.
"Nowadays, any Indian team you're going to play is a good team. It kind of shows the depth of Indian cricket that they can put out two teams," Balbirnie said. "You know we couldn't do that - there's no way we could put out a Test team and a T20 team at the same time, we just don't have the numbers for that.
"I think there's 10,000 or 11,000 people going to be in Malahide on Sunday and potentially 9,000 of them will be Indian supporters. It's great, it's what you want to do growing up, to see this crowd. A few of our guys played in the 2011 World Cup against India, so it was one of the most amazing atmospheres to have played in. So, I think, the guys are really excited to see the colour, hear the noise of the game, and hopefully that kind of gives our guys extra confidence once we get down to it on Sunday."
One of the major talking points in Ireland's squad was the omission of offspinner Simi Singh.
"I think the reasoning was we wanted one frontline offspinner in the group and Andy McBrine's form has been pretty good recently in the last number of weeks with bat and ball," Balbirnie said. "He got that nod; it could've gone either way. The selectors obviously went with Andy and I fully back that and I'm a 100% behind that, but yeah it's a tight call when you're picking just one offspinner when there are two of them there. One of them could be disappointed. This time it's Simi but hopefully he'll come back with a bit between his teeth."
Ireland's team management has backed batting allrounder Gareth Delany to contribute more with his legspin, in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in October. While big-hitting is Delany's stronger suit, he has been bowling fairly regularly for Munster Reds in the Inter-Provincial T20 trophy. He is the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, with seven strikes in four games at an economy rate of 4.33. In his most recent game for Ireland A, against Namibia A, Delany returned career-best List A figures of 5 for 39. Balbirnie could potentially match him up with India's finisher Dinesh Karthik.
"Gareth is certainly an option," Balbirnie said. "He has bowled a lot more in recent inter-pro games and got some confidence under his belt. Andy McBrine is the only frontline offspinner, so he's certainly going to be our main spinner and then predominantly seam. But certainly Gareth is an option, we haven't used him too much in international cricket recently, but he's certainly got a bit of confidence and hopefully he can play his part with both bat and ball."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo