Members of the Ireland Men’s T20 squad gathered at Dublin Airport to fly out for their first competitive T20 International fixtures under the captaincy of Gary Wilson.
The squad will play four T20I matches as part a Tri-Series tournament being held in the Netherlands between Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands. Matches will be played from 12 – 20 June 2018 with sides playing each opponent twice.
"It's a very exciting time for the squad and being asked to take on the Twenty20 captaincy is a great honour for myself and my family,” said Gary Wilson, the 32-year old recently appointed captain of the Ireland T20I squad.
“It's time for the team to play some good cricket and get ourselves, in this format of the game, back on the straight and narrow. To be honest, we've probably slipped away a bit over the last few years, so we need to get ourselves back up that rankings table and put in some good performances.
"My view is that with Twenty20 cricket you encourage players to play with a lot of freedom. The way to do that is to be nice and relaxed about the way we go into our cricket and, as captain, let guys really express themselves. This is really an enjoyable format and - with either bat or the ball in hand - the guys should view this as a great opportunity to showcase their skills.
"The key message I will be getting across to the team over coming days is to back your ability and play with freedom.
"If someone feels like they can really shoot the lights out on any particular day then we’ve got to let them play with that sense of freedom.
"Both Scotland and Netherlands have named pretty strong squads, and it's a format that they’ve respectively done well in recently, so we're expecting tough games. However, if we play to our skill level - really play to the level we know we can - then I’m confident it will go well for us.”
Head Coach Graham Ford also spoke ahead of the flight to the Netherlands: "I see this as the start of a journey to the World T20 Qualifiers - which is a hugely important tournament for us. We've got a few games between now and then to find our best combinations and do a bit of experimenting to find which players suit which roles best. We will be using this Tri-Series to strategise around our strengths and develop a game plan that will enable us to perform well in the Qualifier tournament in 2019.
"As for our new T20I captain, Gary has a wealth of experience in this format. He's was captain at Surrey when I was there for a year and he did a fantastic job, and he's now currently the T20 captain at Derbyshire. It’s a format he excels in and he has a fantastic record.
“Captaining in T20 is a tough place to be, it can be brutal. You’ve got to make decisions quickly and think on your feet in what is a fast-moving game. Adapting quickly is the key, perhaps more than in longer formats of the game where situations change at a slower pace. So, as a coach, your captain is so important, and I believe that Gary has all the attributes to handle what comes with captaining a T20 side.
"In terms of our opponents, we had a good look at both Scotland and the Netherlands in the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in March and they are extremely competitive teams. It’s what we need as a squad - really good opposition to test ourselves against. It should be some good exciting cricket."
And what has Ford, the 57-year old South African who took over the reins in December 2017, made of Irish cricket so far?
"After just over six months in the role I'm still learning – but there's plenty to be excited about. We have a major challenge with having a small playing population, and we're behind some of the bigger nations in a number of aspects, but the energy and the passion and the commitment of everyone that's involved in Irish cricket is really exciting.
"Of most interest to me is that there are some very determined young cricketers in the system who are desperate to make a career out of the game and that can only be healthy for what lies ahead of us."
IRELAND T20 SQUAD:
Gary Wilson (capt) (Derbyshire), Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke), Peter Chase (Malahide), George Dockrell (Leinster), Barry McCarthy (Durham), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union), William Porterfield (Formby), Stuart Poynter (Durham), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), James Shannon (Instonians), Simi Singh (YMCA), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Stuart Thompson (Eglinton), Craig Young (Bready).
The fixtures are as follows:
- Netherlands v Ireland 12 June – start time 17.00 at VOC – Rotterdam
- 13 June – start time 17.00 at VOC – Rotterdam
- Ireland v Scotland 16 June – start time 17.00 at Salland – Deventer
- 17 June – start time 17.00 at Salland – Deventer
- Netherlands v Scotland 19 June – start time 17.00 at VRA – Amstelveen 20 June – start time 11.00 at VRA – Amstelveen
Entry to all matches is free.