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Captain Ireland | Andrew Balbirnie's baptism of fire

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

05:57 21 Jan 2020

Andrew Balbirnie cut an upbeat figure in the Off The Ball studio, fresh from a plane straight from St Kitts.

The Ireland cricket captain agreed that it has been a series of highs and lows in T20 competition, with the series against world champions West Indies ending drawn at one game each.

However, it was a record-breaking tour for Irish cricket, and of particular joy for Balbirnie as the man heading the charge.

"The main relationship [as captain] is between me and the coach, we obviously talk about what we are going to do when we play the games, but when we go over the line it is down to me," Balbirnie says.

"When it comes to it, I have to make a decision on what I want and feel, and a lot of it is about gut feeling.

"I played a lot of cricket with these guys and it is certainly different from just being a player."

Balbirnie captaincy

Someone could be forgiven, then, for becoming distracted by the tasks at hand as captain, but Balbirnie received sage advice from those that had been there before.

"One of the important points that I was told by numerous people was to just focus on batting, because a number of people can get sidetracked with the captaincy and they forget about their main skill and what they are in the team for.

"I have said to myself to lead from the front with my batting; everything else will fall into place."

Decisions, however, fall squarely on Balbirnie's shoulders, as the eleven stepping onto the pitch are chosen by him.

But it is the shift from being just another team-mate to the man making the big calls that can often spell the downfall for captains.

"William Porterfield said when he retired said it was the hardest part of the job; knocking on someone's hotel room the day before a game and telling them they are not playing.

"What was great from my point of view with this tour was that the guys that I did break the news to, the next day in nets they were running in and trying to take my head off!"

That level of competition bodes well for the Irish cricket team, whose status as a Test nation has led to questions over the funding of the sport in Ireland, with Cricket Ireland critical of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Balbirnie says that the series against Pakistan last year cost over €1m, and that he hopes the team's performances can invigorate sponsors' interests.

"What I have tried to say to the guys when we go out and play T20 or ODIs is that what we do can have a snowball effect.

"People will then go: we want to be part of this team, be it sponsors or international teams saying 'let's get them over for a Test match."

 

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