Monday, 6 January 2014 00:00
Ireland play two ODI’s against Sri Lanka early next season. The games will serve as a warm-up for Sri Lanka’s tour of England and could clip the involvement of Sri Lanka’s players in IPL still further.
It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka Cricket will enforce their policy that their players must put internationals ahead of participation in IPL for matches involving an Associate nation.
If they do, it will not rest easily with Sri Lanka’s IPL contingent, who would have preferred the Ireland trip to take place after the England tour in late June when a cursory examination of the fixture calendar suggests there does seem to be an opportunity.
The announcement of the Ireland tour comes barely a month before the IPL auction on February 12 when franchises have been given the liberty to make substantial changes to their squads.
It also comes on the same day that Sanath Jayasuriya, the Sri Lanka chief selector, questioned Thisara Perera’s work ethic and asked him to work harder as the board moved to deny the allrounder permission to participate in the Big Bash League.
Ireland’s coach Phil Simmons certainly sounded confident of the involvement of Sri Lanka’s IPL crew in the matches - both scheduled for Clontarf on Tuesday May 6 and Thursday May 8 - when he flew off to Sri Lanka, coincidentally, for a two-week tour with the Ireland A squad.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our squad to face players of the calibre of Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Matthews, Tillakaratne Dilshan and of course Lasith Malinga,” he said. “They’re going to be tough opposition but Irish conditions in May will be to our advantage.”
Now even matches against Associate nations are clashing with IPL, it does beg the question yet again why there is not more appetite within the Indian board and the ICC for arranging a suitable gap in the calendar - whether official or not - for the biggest and most lucrative domestic T20 tournament
Simmons, though, had reason to be delighted. “Ireland need as many matches as possible against Full Member sides: it’s how we measure ourselves now in terms of our cricketing progress,” he said. “We’ll be gearing our preparation towards the 2015 World Cup, and this series is ideal.
“Last year couldn’t have gone much better in terms of the fact that we won three trophies and continued our domination against our fellow Associates. We did, however, miss opportunities to claim victories against both Pakistan and England when in strong positions.
“We’ll be looking to take our cricket to the next level in 2014 by winning from these types of situations, pressing home our advantage when we’re on top.”
Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland’s chief executive, said: “We are most grateful to Sri Lanka Cricket for giving us this opportunity. It is clear to all in the game that our performances against the Full Members are becoming increasingly competitive in all formats, and this is another opportunity for us to convert strong match positions into ranking points.
“Along with our series in the Caribbean and the World T20 this is a strong start to the year and, win or lose, another chance to demonstrate that we belong at this level.”
Sri Lanka, who have only visited Ireland once before, might find that the “warm-up” means something quite different in Clontarf in early May. Their previous visit was at Eglinton in 1979 when Ivan Anderson’s century helped Ireland secure a draw in the first-class match.
In more recent times Ireland lost their only ODI encounter by eight wickets in the 2007 World Cup, a game which marked the end of Adi Birrell’s tenure as Ireland coach. The teams met again in a thrilling game at Lord’s during the 2009 ICC World Twenty20, when Ireland lost by just nine runs to the eventual finalists.