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Wilson: Players are to blame for Ireland's struggles, not Bracewell


By Ian Callender

John Bracewell's reign as coach in Ireland ended as it began - with an abandoned game.

Although not officially in charge for the one-day international against England immediately after his appointment in May 2015, he saw only 80 minutes of play, and yesterday in his farewell home match against West Indies at Stormont not a ball was bowled after weeks of persistent rain in Belfast left the ground staff with the impossible task of having the ground fit for play for an international.

It probably summed up Bracewell's time in charge as Ireland, despite now being a Full Member, have at best stood still, but vice-captain Gary Wilson insisted the players must take their share of responsibility for the last two years of under-performance.

"You will go a long way to hear a bad word said about John Bracewell in the changing room and, while results haven't gone our way, the players have to take that on the chin themselves," said Wilson. "It's certainly not John's fault that we haven't performed.

"You will start to see the fruits of his tenure as Irish coach over the next couple of years. He bought into Irish cricket when he came over here and immersed himself in it, and sometimes you don't get that - and I'm not just talking about the cricket, the culture as well - in a coach all the time, and I think a lot of the boys will be sorry to see him go and will feel that they let him down."

Wilson was appointed Surrey captain by Bracewell's successor, Graham Ford, when he was coach at The Oval in 2014-15, so although he confesses to being a "big fan" of the South African, Wilson has a word of warning for the short-term.

"If people expect him to come in with a magic brush, it's going to be difficult," said the Ireland vice-captain. "We are a nation that has just broken into Full Member cricket and historically it's never a rapid rise. Just look back at Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or Bangladesh getting Test status, it's been a slow burner.

"You are starting to see what Bangladesh are doing now - after 17 years. So it's a work in progress, and some of the foundations that John has put in place have been very good."

And no one is better placed than Wilson to give an insight into what Ford, who has previous Test match experience as coach of South Africa and Sri Lanka, will bring to his new job.

"Graham will bring a calm head. He is a brilliant man-manager and has a great track record of bringing through younger players and working with guys, he just loves coaching. Expect to see a lot of hard work and you will do well not to see him with a cricket ball in his hand.

"Everybody will be starting from scratch, he won't be coming with any pre-conceived ideas and he will be looking for people to put their hands up, to work hard and hopefully move Irish cricket forward."

Ireland will play one more match under Bracewell - their last ever Intercontinental Cup game against Scotland in the UAE, starting on November 29 - but for now the wait to play a fellow Full Member goes on.

West Indies captain Jason Holder said he was disappointed it was not them.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "It was set to be a great occasion for Irish cricket and it's good to be here, albeit it's very, very cold!

"But the crowd were looking forward to a good game and unfortunately the weather got in the way."

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