Most cricketers think once they have had their Christmas dinner, the cricket season is around the corner. Well it is, in likeÖ four months! This is the case for our domestic players and leagues, but not for our national teams!
2014 is a huge year for both sides. With the Irish Menís team just back from their ICC Intercontinental Cup triumph in Dubai, we could have forgotten about the Women's side - but NO!!
They are leaving for Qatar in only four days! A cold winter saw a lot of early morning sessions to the gym, then to work/school or college, training again most nights with more fitness and skill work.
After qualifying for the T20 World Cup last summer the girls have been in combat mode in preparation for Bangladesh in March.
Before Christmas Pakistan's women's cricket invited both South Africa and the Irish Womenís team to play in a tri-series, in a neutral venue of Qatar.
This is the first-ever triangular women's one-day and T20 tournament will be held in Qatar, in Doha, making Pakistan the first country to introduce women's cricket in this region. The series in Qatar will be of great significance since these teams are in the same pool in the upcoming World T20 being held in Bangladesh in March.
The girls will take on Pakistan and South Africa in four ODIís and four T20ís over two weeks - all matches will be day/night encounters. Selecting a specialised team to play this format of the game is hard enough, and now with this warm up tour it gives all squad members a great opportunity for the selectors and newly appointed coaches to see them play on similar grass wickets and make some last tweaks or changes to game plans ahead of the T20 World Cup.
The traveling squad, a mixed bag of youth and experience, will benefit hugely from the introduction of Trent Johnson as their new head coach. His experience of the modern game will instill a huge confidence into the squad members both young and old.
The squad line up is:
Full associate members South Africa and Pakistan will be looking to use this tri-series to their advantage, this pre World Cup tour will not be a hand hardening exercise but a gauge to see how much work has been put in over the winter for all teams.
It will help Captain Isobel Joyce and her team in getting their opening combinations or bowling attacks right, also allowing Vice-captain Mary Waldron to see what the ball and bowlers are doing of the wicket from behind the stumps.
Temperatures in Qatar will average around 22 in January and when the girls get to Bangladesh the temperatures will have jumped as high at 30+, although this is nothing new to the girls, this trip to Qatar will help them acclimatise and prepare for the conditions ahead.
The T20 World Cup in Bangladesh will be the first time the Irish Menís and Womenís team have traveled to the same tournament to compete. This will hopefully have a great knock-on effect to the woman's domestic leagues with higher exposure for the squad through media and social media.
Seeing a interest for new players to the game joining clubs would top off this whole process.
Following the teams whereabouts and how they are getting on can easily be done on Twitter @Irishwomenscricket and even following the individual players will give you a feel for how they are progressing - there are some great personalities on this squad - they deserve your support!
The matches and venues are as follows -
PCB Qatar Women's 50 Over Tri-Series
PCB Qatar Women's 20 Over Tri-Series
You can follow all three teams on Twitter - @IrishWomensCric @Cricket_PCB @OfficialCSA