The end of our 2011 World Cup dreams
Sunday March 20, 2011
When Morne Morkel took the final Irish wicket of George Dockrell on Tuesday night at the impressive Eden Gardens, it spelt the end of the road for us in relation to our quarter-final dreams.
We have a hugely important fixture on Friday against the Dutch at the same venue.
However, when we board the plane for Belfast and Dublin there will be plenty of reflection on a tournament of ups and downs.
The biggest disappointment was, of course, the loss to Bangladesh.
However, it was, if not forgotten, put in the shade by that magnificent night in Bangalore against England. Thereafter, we put in some sterling performances, not least in the field where for the majority, we have been outstanding.
It is easily the best fielding unit I have been involved in, and testament to the fitness levels and work done in that area by those behind the scenes.
We have put ourselves in match-winning positions in all the games and perhaps, with a bit more experience against the top nations, we would have come through victorious in one or more of these. When I say experience, there is no substitute for playing the best and learning to win against the best in different situations.
The statistics reveal we have only played seven one-day internationals against the top eight ranked nations since 2007 and that in itself perhaps makes our performances even better. But, more importantly, it highlights where we as players believe there is room for change.
With the release of the news that both Ireland and Scotland are scheduled to play against Sri Lanka in July, it is at least a start in the right direction.
The International Cricket Council High Performance programme, which focuses on the top six nations below Test level - under the guidance of Richard Done - has been of great benefit to us and hopefully our performances here can illustrate how investment, both time-wise and financially, to grow the game is a must.
It's four years to the day that the 'class of 2007' defeated Pakistan on St Patrick's Day, but it would be wrong to compare that team with the one of 2011 as it would do a disservice to those that helped this team be what it is today.
Kevin O'Brien celebrates his record century as Ireland beat England
What we can do is judge how far we have come - and that is evident both on and off the field. Perhaps most importantly, only two players were centrally contracted to Cricket Ireland in 2007, compared to 13 of the current squad.
There has been much talk about the reduction of competing nations at the next World Cup to 10 - however among us as players, there has been none.
I suppose what we desire is a process whereby we can at least have the opportunity to be in Australia/New Zealand in four years' time. Whether that is through a qualification process or through some other means, few would begrudge us the chance I'm sure.
The future of Irish cricket is bright and in the hands of some excellent leadership from grassroots to the top. The question is where we can be in four years' time - the answer in many ways lies with the ICC. We won't forget an incredible journey across the sub-continent and the passion that the local people have for the game of cricket.