Graham Ford, the Ireland head coach, expressed excitement for the team's busy schedule next year, adding that qualification for ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 is a "huge priority" for his side.
Ireland will lock horns with Oman, Netherlands and Scotland in a Quadrangular Twenty20 series, which begins on Wednesday, 13 February. They will then travel to India for a full tour against Afghanistan, which will be followed by home one-day internationals against England, Bangladesh and the Windies.
“It is a busy year for our cricketers, but also an exciting and challenging phase for Cricket Ireland," said Ford. "Achieving results is something we all want but there is also an understanding of the importance of bringing through some of the younger lads. Their progress is vital to our cricketing future.
Ireland will cap off around seven weeks on the road with their first overseas Test, and while a win is on their mind, they're expecting a tough fight from Afghanistan.— ICC (@ICC) February 3, 2019
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“We have the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League ahead of us in 2020 through to 2022, and of course qualification for the 2023 World Cup is a huge priority. We therefore need to have an eye on the future and give some of the younger talent an opportunity to play alongside some of the established players.”
Paul Stirling, who is leading the team in the absence of regular skipper Gary Wilson, said he is enjoying his new role. “Captaincy has been a brilliant challenge. The skill of being able to focus on my personal fielding as the ball is delivered has been the most tricky bit so far, but that will naturally become easier with time,” he said.
“I have certainly learnt a lot by playing in overseas competitions – particularly the level of detail that players think about the game has been noticeable throughout this winter, and it rubs off on everyone else.
"It has been great getting guys like Harry Tector, Shane Getkate and Lorcan Tucker involved in the senior set-up"
“One takeaway relating to captaincy has been that it isn't acceptable to bat or bowl without a plan and hope that it will happen, but it is OK to have a plan and it doesn't work. From a team point of view, it is important to find what style of play you want to go with.
"For instance, if we don't have the firepower of the West Indies or Afghanistan, then we'll need to limit our dot balls and be precise with our gap-finding for boundaries to get to the match-winning scores and give our bowlers the chances to defend.”
The stand-in skipper believes that veteran Kevin O'Brien, who was promoted up the order in the warm-up games before the quadrangular series, has what's required to succeed as an opener.
“Kev has certainly got the attributes to succeed at the top of the order and has always been one of our best ball strikers," said Stirling. "I am sure he is looking forward to the new challenge of getting the Irish team off to a good start in T20 cricket, and, of course, this change has also created opportunities for batsmen in the middle order to take their chance and cement a place in the side."
Uncapped Harry Tector, who lead the Ireland Wolves squad in Sri Lanka in January, has been called up to the senior squad for the quadrangular series, alongside other new faces. “It has been great getting guys like Harry Tector, Shane Getkate and Lorcan Tucker involved in the senior set-up, " said Stirling.
"Their call-ups have been thoroughly deserved on the back of performances in Sri Lanka. They have all impressed so far with their attitude and it is now about going out and grabbing the chance with both hands.”