Ireland need to pack a punch in ODIs if they want the coveted Test status © Getty Images
Ireland need to pack a punch in ODIs if they want the coveted Test status © Getty Images

March 17, 2007 was a nightmare in Pakistan’s cricketing history. It was ICC World Cup 2007 and Pakistan were playing their second match after being beaten by West Indies in the tournament opener. Ireland were playing for the first time in an ICC event. It is needless to say that they were being treated as ‘pushovers’ in the clash versus 1992 World Cup winning side. The match’s outcome outfoxed the crowd who had gone to see Pakistan triumph. Ireland had did the unthinkable by winning the match by 3 wickets. The fact that it was St Patrick’s Day made the win even sweeter for Ireland. For Pakistan cricket team and their fans, unfortunately, it was nothing short of doomsday.

Nonetheless, Ireland prevailed and even reached the Super 8 stage. If connoisseurs of cricket were thinking to label this victory of Ireland as fluke, they were made to think again. Ireland targeted a lacklustre England side when they turned up for the next edition of cricket’s biggest tournament. Ireland came on top of England in World Cup 2011. They chased down a record 330. Kevin O’Brien scored a 50-ball hundred, then the quickest in World Cup cricket. It was as if they were ready to face the powerhouses in cricket and were eager to repeat Sri Lanka’s feat from the 1990s.

By the time World Cup 2015 was there Ireland had gained the reputation of taming one big team in every World Cup. This time two-time World Cup winning side West Indies were thrashed by Ireland. Another big chase, and the Irish players were ready for the challenge. West Indies succumbed to a four-wicket loss and even though Ireland did not progress further in the tournament despite beating Zimbabwe (they bowed out of the group stages), they had something to cheer beating a team above their ranks. ALSO READ: Ireland cricket can grow many folds playing overseas

Ireland were always expected to punch above their weight after competing well in ICC events but that wasn’t the case. Their record from 2011 to 2016 (in ODIs) stands at 17 wins from 45 matches. Their win-ratio is 0.739. All their success have come against low-ranked teams like Kenya, Scotland, Canada and UAE whereas they have nothing to show against quality sides like Australia, South Africa and India in recent past.

Ireland’s recent debacles:

Ireland were lucky to have two ODIs against Sri Lanka and Pakistan when the subcontinental sides were touring England. All four matches turned out to be dead rubbers as Ireland surrendered meekly. Neither side showed any mercy towards the Irish: side as they were hammered by 76 runs and 136 runs by Sri Lanka and by 255 runs by Pakistan; one ODI was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Ever since Trent Johnson retired Ireland have looked toothless in the bowling department, and the results were there to be seen as every match produced big scores from the opponents’ willow.

The pace trio of Tim Murtagh, Boyd Rankin and Barry McCarthy have been ineffective with the white ball against top-ranked batsmen like Dinesh Chandimal and Sarfraz Ahmed thrashing the ball at all corners of the pitch. The reason evident here is that these bowlers do not play for continuous periods as Ireland gets a handful of matches every year compared to other big teams. Apart from this, most of their matches are against teams lying lower down the ladder. This does not create a competitive environment for the Irish camp, for the only way to improve is playing against tougher opponents. Top teams can keep an inexperienced team like Ireland on their toes; with their style of playing, Ireland can imbibe much more than they will beating a side like UAE or Scotland. ALSO READ: Temba Bavuma’s 113 and 9 other highest scores on ODI debut

Talking about their batting, they have batsmen like William Porterfield, Niall O’Brien, Kevin O’Brien, Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling who have sound techniques. Their drives, pulls and flicks are a treat to the eyes but their hapless bowling line-up gives them a steep target to chase. Ireland are not that good to chase anything excess of 350. They will get past the finish line chasing big totals 6 out of 10 times against weaker teams but will hardly or never emerge winners against quality line-ups seeing their current state.

If an intern has to rise through the ranks, it is solely dependent on how he seizes big moments in a firm. Similarly, a player can do everything right in domestic circuit but has to nail the international stage or else there will be no point to play the game. So, even if we ponder upon the fact that Ireland turn up less infront of established sides, they have only themselves to blame for their losses. They get limited chances and have to grab it wholeheartedly. Ireland have shown what they are capable of but are not doing justice to their talent. ALSO READ: Australia vs Ireland, only ODI, Preview and Predictions: Aussies look to demolish fallible Irish

In their last ODI, against South Africa, they were again on the mat chasing 355. They play another match against Australia before signing off from the African nation. If they do not show enough fire and perish easily (which is expected), they will feel the heat. The conditions in Ireland are such that they hardly get to play a long series with rain affecting games almost invariably. In other words they need to bank on away matches. With Afghanistan striving hard and taking every team with equal hunger to shed their ‘minnows’ tag, Ireland will have to rise to the occasion; if they do not do the same, going by their ordinary record against top teams in ODIs, they will never gain that coveted Test status. Ireland will continue to be where they are at the moment and world cricket will lose a promising team.

Who would have thought that Ireland will not rise after starting well, that too in World Cups, but as the saying goes, “cricket is a funny game” and they are seeing their own downfall haplessly.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)