Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
With opinion divided world over on the Associates' participation in future World Cups, with opinions ranging from that of Ricky Ponting's to Graeme Swann's, the one voice that should matter the most, that of Ireland, is typical of how the team plays its cricket. Four years ago, they not only won two big matches and tied one, they also won the hearts of the cricket followers all over the world. Despite continuing the good work, they are still waiting for the elusive Test status perhaps after the Bangladesh misadventure, the ICC is cautious inviting teams into the Test family. The top Associate nation, though, doesn't want to contribute verbally to the current debate; they want to give the ICC reasons to include them through their performances on the field.
Niall O'Brien, Ireland's wicketkeeper-batsman, knows the uninspiring show by Canada and Kenya on Sunday provides the ICC, and more importantly its commercial partners, reasons to keep the number of non-Test-playing nations in the tournament down. "It's obviously two disappointing results from Canada and Kenya," he said. "I am disappointed with how they played, but from my point of view, we pride ourselves in being the top of the so-called Associates and the so-called minnows. So from my point of view, we have got a good enough team to go a long way in this tournament. Yes it is disappointing the way they played, but they have five games to rectify that. Hopefully they put in strong performances in the next three or four weeks."
O'Brien didn't harp too much on the decision to prune the next World Cup down to 10 teams. "Yes, it is a shame, because the game has got to grow," he said. "[However], it's up to the ICC to decide who is going to be a part of the next World Cup. Hopefully we will be a part of that. In the next six weeks, if we can put in strong performances, and win matches, against teams we so-called 'shouldn't beat', as we have done in the past, we only strengthen our case. From our point of view, we are not thinking too much about it. It's for ICC to think, it's out of our hands."
Bangladesh, being a Test nation, are one team they so-called 'shouldn't beat', but they have done so at the world events of both the formats they are qualified to play in - and at 74 runs and six wickets, the margins are quite comprehensive too. This game, crucial as it is for both teams' ambitions to progress to the next round, will be a different kettle. The conditions here will be the most foreign to Ireland, despite all their training against spin in their one-month camp in Pune last year. When they toured here last, Ireland failed to win a game in the three-ODI series.
"That was a long time ago, and that schedule, that tour, was a bit hard on us," O'Brien said. "We only turned up on a Monday, and played 36 hours later in some pretty difficult conditions. That's a long time ago, that's past, and we have beaten Bangladesh three of the last four times we have played them. Confidence is high, and we know we have got a good enough team to win here Friday night.
"Bangladesh spinners, the likes of [Abdur] Razzak and skipper [Shakib Al Hasan], we have to play them with the respect they deserve, but at the same time we have to be proactive and quite aggressive."
Ireland know a good performance in subcontinent conditions will be a natural progression from four years ago. As long as they can do that, O'Brien feels, the rest will fall in place. "We have got the next four to five weeks to concentrate on our cricket, and 2015 in a long way away. We have got a World Cup here, we have got the T20 world cup in Sri Lanka in not too distant future. We have got plenty of cricket to look forward to. We played Australia in August in Dublin, and should have beaten them. We have got England in August this year, so hopefully we go out there and put in good performances, and let the rest look after themselves."
So 2011 it is, and O'Brien and his side are looking forward to playing in front of full houses, as opposed to in front of four people and their dog back home. On the way if they spoil a few parties, that may or may not include Bangladesh's, then so be it.