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Youngsters are not ready to step up yet, insists Ford

 

By Ian Callender

Head Coach Graham Ford has defended Ireland's selection policy after the same familiar faces lost back-to-back series against Afghanistan.

The keyboard warriors have been out in force asking when Ireland are going to introduce the young guns but, after his first full season in charge, Ford insists the tried and trusted have outplayed the contenders.

"We don't have a huge amount of options," said the coach.

"In the inter-pros, the older players who people are saying should be replaced are outplaying the younger players, so if you make changes you want to know they are going to be there for a good period of time, because they are absolutely ready. If they are not ready you are going to go round in circles."

David Delany and Josh Little were in both the Twenty20 and one-day international squads which lost to Afghanistan last month, but Little played only one T20 and Delany remains uncapped having had to pull out of the ODI squad because of injury.

However, Ireland still chose the same 11 players for the three ODIs, despite losing the first match, leaving James Shannon, George Dockrell and Little wearing the yellow bibs.

"The first ODI was a game we could have won, but we looked like a team low in confidence," said Ford.

"We didn't field well, we didn't run well between the wickets, but it wasn't a game we lost by much and it was pleasing to see the guys bounce back in the second match, which justified staying with the same team.

"To expect to beat them in a must-win final (match) with their high class spinners - and they are very good bowlers who have had success against top sides - it's a hell of a tough ask, and you end up batting first (on a used pitch) because it can only turn more later on for Rashid Khan and Mujeeb, so that brought their seamers into play.

"All in all, if you look at the games, both the T20s and the ODIs, it shows they are in a better place than we are. They have more match-winning options than us and some of the spin bowling is pretty new (no success) for our guys.

"They are aware they need a lot of hard work before we play them again in India next year in what will be spin-friendly conditions. We are going to have to make improvements and if we put up a better fight against the spinners it will be a big plus."

Ford acknowledged that in every game Ireland have beaten Afghanistan, Paul Stirling has played a "massive part", although "it was good to see Balbo (Andrew Balbirnie) step up. That was a real positive".

He must be concerned, however, that he has to rely on one or two batsmen to win games, and the same in the bowling attack with Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh accounting for 13 of the 18 wickets taken by Ireland in the ODI series.

"You need match winners, you need firepower, and it leaves William (Porterfield, the captain) in a tough spot because he is taking calculated risks about when to use his main weapons and then the rest of the time he has to hold tight and play a bit of cat and mouse," said Ford.

"We have spoken a great deal about needing high quality bowlers to come through.

"We wanted to have a good look at Little and Delany and, as it turned out, we didn't get as good a look as we wished, but those two cricketers have a lot of potential so we don't want to ignore them."

In the batting, the Ireland coach did mention one name who impressed in the inter-provincials.

"The one that jumps out is James McCollum in the three-day competition, not so much in the one-dayers, but he showed he can play, and it was a pity he missed quite a lot of Wolves games because of the webbing in his hand," added Ford.

The only international cricket for the rest of the year is the Hong Kong Sixes on the last weekend of October, but there will be an Ireland Wolves tour to Sri Lanka in January ahead of the eight white-ball games and the Test match against Afghanistan.

"Quite a number of players will go to different parts of the world to work on their games on grass wickets, and eight players will be going to a spin camp in Bangalore in December - where they can bat for hours against spin," added Ford.

Whether it will prepare them for Rashid and Mujeeb, only time will tell, but surely it can only get better, given Rashid has taken a wicket every eight balls in T20 internationals against Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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