CRICKET Ireland have defended the decision to dispense with the services of their popular assistant coach and Lead Fast Bowling coach Rob Cassell.

Amid widespread criticism, Cassell, who was appointed in 2017, was forced to choose between an offer to go the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL) for two months or maintain his contract with Cricket Ireland.

The Australian was happy to take unpaid leave and tried to convince his employers that his experience at the IPL, as assistant coach to fellow countryman Andrew McDonald at the Rajasthan Royals, would be invaluable on his return to the playing group and fellow staff.

But CI Performance Director Richard Holdsworth insisted letting Cassell out of his contract could set a precedent, with players or even Head Coach Graham Ford possibly following suit.

“Ireland have 13 fixtures during the IPL, including three one-day internationals against Bangladesh which are the first games in the new ODI League which is the start of qualifying for the 2023 World Cup, plus a number of T20 matches as we prepare for the T20 World Cup in October,” said Holdsworth.

He also pointed out that Cassell, who had already been offered a new two and a half year contract, could have gone with CI’s blessing next year as Ireland have no scheduled fixtures between April and June in 2021.

But Cassell’s argument was that being involved in the IPL – the biggest T20 tournament outside the World Cup – was even more reason for him to be involved this year and bring back his growth and information.

But it was an argument that Cassell couldn’t win.

Cassell’s farewell with the squad will be in India for three T20Is against Afghanistan from March 6-10, with Cricket Ireland hoping to have a replacement in place for the tour to Zimbabwe in April.

Cricket Ireland today advertised for Cassell’s replacement, with interviews taking place on February 24-25.