Ireland national coach Phil Simmons enjoyed the luxury of an extra fielding session at Stormont yesterday ahead of Ireland's back-to-back one day internationals against India and South Africa this weekend, but he could be forgiven for thinking more about the absentees than those present.

He didn't, of course, that's not the West Indian's style. He deals in the present, but with only seven of the World Cup heroes available to him as he prepares to face the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini, he must genuinely be worried what lies ahead.

The overseas stars are in Belfast to clash head-on in three ODIs on Tuesday and Friday of next week and the following Sunday but, as the host nation, Ireland have the opportunity to chalk up elite ranking points in the warm-up games against India tomorrow and South Africa on Sunday. Indeed, if Ireland happened to win both they would be just two points behind Bangladesh as the ninth best team in the world in one-day cricket.

With such an inexperienced side on view, however, it is much more likely that the Proteas will consolidate their second place ranking and India, currently only sixth, can close in on fourth placed Pakistan.

For four days, however, Ireland are on a level playing field with their betters, training for two days and then in action on successive days with the eyes of the world on them, as they try to prove their victories against Pakistan and Bangladesh at the World Cup could be the start of something big.

Simmons was an observer for most of the campaign in the Caribbean and with his vast experience of international cricket - 26 Tests and 143 ODIs - knows better than most just what their opponents this weekend think of Ireland.

'When the big teams play us they no longer take us for granted. They are going to come hard. We played South Africa twice in the West Indies, should have beaten them in the warm-up game and got the worst of the weather in the Super Eights, so they know what to expect. India lost in the World Cup to Bangladesh so they will be under pressure to perform and with a big series against England coming up they will want to get to their tour off to a winning start,' said Simmons.

'It's great to have the guys together for two days, instead of the usual one during the county matches. Ideally it should be three,' he says greedily, 'but I don't have a choice. You have to take what you're given.'

Although the chairman of selectors, Simmons also has to take the players that are given to him. When he sat down last week to choose his 13-man squad, for the first ODIs since the World Cup when every Irish-qualified player is available to him, he would have expected to choose Jeremy Bray, Eoin Morgan, Peter Gillespie and Dave Langford-Smith. Already without the injured Boyd Rankin and Andre Botha, all four would, with their World Cup experience, have been the first names on the team-sheet but not one is available with Morgan's choice of Middlesex over Ireland the most debated.

Simmons, though, refuses to pontificate on the matter, saying only: 'We have chosen the best 13 we have and it is not for me to decide whether Eoin has made the right decision. In the long run, that is up to him and at the minute, he feels it best for him to play Twenty20 cricket for Middlesex, to cement his county place, rather than play an ODI.'

A couple of half centuries against India and South Africa, in the full glare of an one-day international, would, surely, have been irresistible proof that his county place was secure. But, after his aggregate of 91 runs in nine innings at the World Cup, maybe the 20 year old's decision is understandable.