Cricket Ireland has announced their squads for both the Intercontinental Cup clash with Afghanistan and the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in UAE.
13 players have been named in an experienced line up for the four day clash with Afghanistan in Sri Lanka. Indeed, despite the retirement of their most capped player Kyle McCallan, Phil Simmons has assembled a squad which has no fewer than 799 appearances between them.
McCallan's place in the squad is taken by his Waringstown team mate Gary Kidd, who won the last of his 15 caps back in 2008. 23 year old Kidd is understandably delighted at his return to the senior ranks:
"2009 started off badly for me when I broke my wrist playing soccer, and it took me a lot of time to recover from that. I've been working hard with Adrian Birrell who was looking after Ireland A, and gradually my fitness and confidence began to return. I've also concentrated hard on the other attributes necessary to play at international level now, and my fielding has been given the Birrell seal of approval!"
"I did well during the European A championships, taking 8 for 15 against The Netherlands (the best individual figures in European torunament history), and finished the season in fine form for my club, helping them to a share of the title. I've been working in the nets and in the gym with Tony Hiley, the Irish strength and conditioning coach, and that has really paid off. I've been given this opportunity to replace Kyle, and while that's obviously pretty big boots to fill, I'll be doing my best to cement my place in the squad."
Kidd will be joined in the squad for the T20 quadrangular tournament in Sri Lanka and the qualifiers in Dubai by 17 year old Leinster left arm spinner George Dockrell, who has made such an impression on his appearances for Ireland Under 19. Dockrell and Paul Stirling will join up with the squad following the conclusion of the Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Coach Phil Simmons explained why he had veered from his usual strategy of opting for vast experience in qualification tournaments: "Not only have we lost Kyle through retirement, but Regan West has to undergo operations on both his shoulders. We don't know how long he'll be out for until the surgeon operates, but he could be missing most of the year. Gary Kidd and George Dockrell are the two best spinners about at the minute. I've seen George bowl well in the two Under 19 competitions, and I'm convinced he has a big future in the game. They both turn the ball quite a bit, and slow bowling will be crucial in The UAE."
"We have other slow bowling options in both Andrew White and Paul Stirling, who will do a good job when called upon. The squad has a very strong batting line-up, and there are plenty of all-rounders which give it a well balanced feel. We reached the Super Eight phase of the last tournament in England, and I know just how much myself and the players want a chance to repeat that in the West Indies. It won't be easy with just two qualifying from eight teams, but I'm confident we have the players to do it."
The squads are as follows:
Intercontinental Cup versus Afghanistan (Jan 23-26 Dambullah, Sri Lanka)
William Porterfield (Captain) (Gloucestershire), Andre Botha (North County), Peter Connell (North Down), Alex Cusack (Clontarf), Phil Eaglestone (Strabane), Trent Johnston (Railway Union), Gary Kidd (Waringstown), John Mooney (North County), Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union), Niall O'Brien (Northamptonshire), Boyd Rankin (Derbyshire), Andrew White (Instonians), Gary Wilson (Surrey).
T20 Quadrangular Series in Sri Lanka and ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE
William Porterfield (Captain) (Gloucestershire), Andre Botha (North County), Peter Connell (North Down), Alex Cusack (Clontarf), George Dockrell (Leinster), Trent Johnston (Railway Union), Gary Kidd (Waringstown), John Mooney (North County), Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union), Niall O'Brien (Northamptonshire), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Andrew White (Instonians), Gary Wilson (Surrey).