Playing in the IPL is a huge ambition for us: Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie | Cricket News

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Ahead of the two-T20I series, Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie talks about putting pressure on anxious second-string Indian team, T20 leagues and opportunities.
Excerpts:
How do you see this short two-match T20I series against a second-string Indian team?
It’s a huge occasion for us. They have such a number of experienced players in T20 format. They have a squad in England for the Test match and then there’s a squad that’s coming down to Ireland to play us in T20s. They are all looking to impress. There are a lot of players in this Indian T20 side who are looking for a spot in the full-strength team. So, they will be under pressure also. We play NZ in a few weeks. With the T20 WC coming in October, there are a lot of players who want to stake a claim for that. So there’s opportunity for players on both sides.
Ireland is a full member of ICC. Yet, you have to depend on big teams touring UK to play these short international games…
It’s great to play them in Dublin. Cricket is still a developing sport in Ireland. To play such big teams in Dublin and Belfast helps in the growth of the sport in the country. Naturally, as cricketers we would want to travel. I wasn’t a part of the 2011 World Cup in India but the guys who were say it was the greatest experience. We have a 50-over WC to qualify next year.
Has bringing in the contract system helped in professionalising the sport in Ireland?
When I started playing professional cricket, I had to play in England and so did many others. Now we have 23 players on Ireland contract who have access to training as much as they want. It has helped the coaches to see these players on a day-to-day basis.
The importance of T20 leagues for players from smaller cricketing nations…
We have a number of players who are good at the T20 format. We are all aware how competitive it is to get into the IPL. That’s a huge ambition for a lot of us. That’s the pinnacle of T20 cricket. You see how quickly certain players develop when they get access to the league. We have a number of players who play in different leagues but not the IPL. When they come back to the Irish team, they bring a lot of experience and learning.
ICC has decided to increase the number of participating teams from the next cycle of ICC events…
It’s an encouragement. The best moments in Irish cricket have come at 50-over World Cups. We have contracted players now because of what the Irish team did in 2007, 2011 and 2015 WC. It’s an opportunity to showcase the game in the country and what we can do on that stage. The coming years will help countries below Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland who have put in a lot of effort without much funding.
Despite getting Test status, Ireland hasn’t played a Test since 2019…
I have been fortunate to play three Tests for Ireland. We have got into positions where we had chances to win all of them but we didn’t take those chances. I am 31 now and there’s no scheduled Test match in the future. It’s so disappointing. All the players are desperate to play Test cricket but we don’t want to play one-off here and there. We want to play at least 5-6 Tests a year so that players get to learn and build their games.
(Watch Ireland-India T20I series on SONY SIX (English), SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) & SONY TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) on 26th & 28th June 2022 from 9:00 pm IST)

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