World Cup

Beach volleyball helping Ireland cricketers focus amidst match postponements in Abu Dhabi

Andrew Balbirnie was named captain of Ireland in November 2019

Captain Andrew Balbirnie has explained how beach volleyball has helped keep the Ireland cricket squad focused amid a series of match postponements.

Ireland have had their second one-day international against the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi postponed four times this week due to Covid-19 cases in the home camp.

The series was meant to give Ireland crucial match practice for their three World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan, scheduled to start in Abu Dhabi next Thursday.

Given the lack of matches, Balbirnie said training has taken on extra importance, with he and the coaches having to get creative with the sessions.

“It is important now that we do not fall into the trap of getting complacent at training and just going through the motions,” he said.

“We are trying to remind the players to be as specific as possible during training and have a goal to aim towards in each session, even if it is just a small thing to keep us going.

“We had a beach volleyball competition a few days ago in our hotel which all members were involved in and it was a great way of spending two hours.

“It was great fun. There were a few dubious calls by Paul Stirling as referee but it was just good to do something totally different. We are a close-knit bunch and we are keeping each other entertained.”

Ireland will ‘find a way’ to be ready

Paul Stirling
Paul Stirling hit 131 not out in the defeat by UAE last week

Ireland were due to play a four-match ODI series against the UAE but, after losing the opening encounter last Friday, the second match was postponed four times after seven players in the home camp tested positive for coronavirus.

The Emirates Cricket Board said it hoped UAE could play Ireland on Monday, but Balbirnie thinks that is unlikely.

However, as difficult as he admits the current tour has been due to the ongoing disruptions, he has insisted that he and the players will find a way to be prepared for next week’s World Cup qualifiers.

“If that second ODI against UAE comes about then that will be great, but it is very difficult to see how it is going ahead,” he continued.

“It’s hugely disappointing. We’ve got a pretty inexperienced squad and these games were going to be a great platform for them to get their teeth into international cricket.

“We have obviously got the Afghan series coming up which are three massive games for us so we have just got to make sure we prepare as best we can.

“It is going to be no secret that we won’t be as well prepared as we might have hoped but we will find a way to make sure that we are ready to go for the first one-day international.”

Balbirnie confident that ‘privileged’ Ireland can win

Curtis Campher
Curtis Campher took two wickets against UAE

Despite the lack of preparation matches, Balbirnie remains confident Ireland can get the series victory that they are looking for against Afghanistan.

He was also keen to stress that, while talking about the challenges he and his team are facing while preparing for a cricket match, they are very aware that they are in a fortunate position as elite sportsmen.

“I’m always confident, our record against Afghanistan is pretty good – we are very close to 50-50 over the years in terms of ODIs,” he added.

“We have players on form, Paul Stirling had an incredible knock last week getting 131 not out and Curtis Campher bowled really well.

“It will be difficult because we haven’t played, but Afghanistan also haven’t played. It is always a test and the players are always up for matches against them as we have played them a lot and know them pretty well.

“We are completely privileged. The guys are well aware of how lucky we are. It is hard not to ignore what is going on back home with people not able to see loved ones or play their own sports and interact with friends.

“Even if it is training or playing a game of beach volleyball, we are fortunate and we only have that for another 10 days so we need to get the most out of it.”

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