ICC Media Release
Following the success of Ireland at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies, expectations were high that the team would continue to make strides on the world stage.
After a brief period of coming back down to Earth which coincided with a number of key players being unavailable, William Porterfield's team returned to winning ways, making it through to the ICC World Twenty20 in England later this year as well as winning its third successive ICC Intercontinental Cup and other regional events.
But with that success comes more expectation and Ireland is one of the favourites to win the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier which gets underway in South Africa on 1 April. Porterfield maintains that the expectation translates into the team as confidence rather than pressure.
'We are quietly confident within the squad in the preparation we've been doing,' said the 24-year-old opening batsman.
'We know it's not going to be easy – we saw that before the last World Cup (at the ICC World Cricket League Division 1) in Kenya when we failed to perform so we're taking nothing for granted. But we're still quietly confident we can go all the way,' he said.
'There probably will be some extra pressure on us but we are not looking at it like that. We were favourites going into the World Twenty20 Qualifier last year and we came through on top so we know we are going to have to deal with the tag as favourite and the pressure that goes with that. We would rather have the tag as number-one Associate and we will be trying to end the tournament in South Africa in the same position.'
'I think cricket in Ireland has been developing really well. Even since the World Cup in 2007 I think we have taken some massive steps. I think we've got to continue to take those strides and so qualification for all the major tournaments is a must for ourselves. We have to not only be the best Associate team but also be knocking on the door of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and trying to compete with them before we move up a level. It's a really exciting time to be involved in Irish cricket.'
Coming out of the European winter, there is the danger that Ireland will be a little rusty compared to sides from Africa and Asia who have plenty of match practice under their belts. But Porterfield is happy with preparations so far.
'We have had a long pre-season indoors and we are just looking forward to getting outdoors now and putting into practice what we have been training for. The guys are in good shape, we have a full squad and we are very excited.
It's one thing getting to the top but it's another thing staying there. One of the biggest things the Ireland players have to guard against these days is complacency when they take the field against teams they know they should beat.
'Anyone who has seen what we have been doing over the past few weeks and months will know that we are a side that doesn't get complacent,' said Porterfield.
'We know we have to stay one step ahead of everyone else. The level we are playing at, everyone knows everyone else – you know where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are and so we are constantly trying to improve so we can stay ahead of the game.'
So where will the main threat come from? Unsurprisingly, Porterfield says the Ireland v Scotland rivalry, which has been bubbling along since 1888 and is one of the oldest in international cricket, will be hugely important to how Group A finishes. The Scots beat Ireland in the final of this competition four years ago and the men in green will be out for revenge.
'Scotland will be one of the main contenders in our group. On paper that will be one of the biggest games for us but as we have seen in previous tournaments, anyone can cause an upset. We won't be taking anything for granted and we'll be treating the next game as the most important. Our opening game is against Scotland so that will be our main focus initially so we can hopefully get off to a winning start.
'We do know the opposition quite well at this stage so we will have individual plans as well as team plans going into the tournament and certain games. But we're focusing on what we can do and if we're on top of our game going into the tournament then that is the main thing for us.
'We've got a full-strength team with all the county boys back. From a bowling point of view I think Boyd Rankin could cause a bit of trouble with his extra height and bounce. From a batting perspective we'll have Eoin Morgan who has just come back off England Lions duty so he'll definitely be one to watch out for.
Ireland (squad): William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Peter Connell, Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, Kyle McCallan, John Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Regan West, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.