Kevin O’Brien hoping for St Patrick’s Day plaudits against Zimbabwe

Ireland's Kevin O'Brien
Ireland's Kevin O'Brien
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Kevin O’Brien was backing Ireland to make a major impression at the ICC World T20 when the squad left for a pre-tournament training camp in Dubai on Sunday.

For O’Brien, and the two other veterans of the 2007 World Cup - his brother Niall and William Porterfield - there is a sense of déjà vu, because their opening group match in Bangladesh will be against Zimbabwe on St Patrick’s Day.

Ireland famously tied with the African side in their opening game of 2007, before scoring an incredible win over Pakistan two days later on March 17.

“Paddy’s Day has been kind to us in the past and I hope it’s a good omen for when we play Zimbabwe in the first match - that’s a massive game for both teams,” O’Brien said, without ignoring the threat posed by the UAE and the Netherlands in Ireland’s other Round One games.

“We have serious ambitions to go all the way in the tournament, and we plan to get off the plane in Dhaka and hit the ground running when the competition gets under way.”

O’Brien believes the lessons learned on the recent tour of the Caribbean - where Ireland played three matches in Trinidad and three in Jamaica, including a T20 victory over the West Indies - will serve them well in the coming campaign.

“We take confidence from having beaten the world champions on their own patch, and I suppose that puts added pressure on us to qualify from Round One,” the Railway Union all-rounder added.

“Six games of high quality cricket in the West Indies were great preparation for this trip. If we’re being harsh on ourselves we probably left a few results out on the pitch there, especially at Sabina Park when we couldn’t chase 97 to clinch the T20 series.

“We know Zimbabwe are a good team with some very dangerous players in the format. I think we can go all the way but a lot will depend on how we bowl on the slower, lower pitches in Bangladesh.

“The bowling unit showed last month on similar pitches in the Caribbean that they can bowl sides out and restrict quality sides to low totals. If we can be clinical with the bat and back ourselves, then we can beat anyone on our day.”

Ireland coach Phil Simmons believes the new format of the World T20 - where eight smaller cricketing nations fight for two places to join the eight top ranked sides in Round Two - will actually benefit the teams that emerge successfully from Round One.

“I don’t subscribe to the view that it’s not good to have to go through what some see as another qualifying hurdle,” he said. “In the last two World T20s we have played only one completed game, and suffered two wash-outs.

“This way, if we win the group we’ll have played three matches as well as two warm-ups in Bangladesh which would give us a serious advantage in terms of acclimatisation against Full Members and the chance of getting them cold before they adapt.

“We had a great experience in the West Indies and it’s a measure of how far the team has come in seven years that we and the fans are disappointed because we could not quite claim a series win against the World T20 champions.

“We’ve put in a lot of hard work in the West Indies and will continue that preparation in Dubai where we have two practice matches scheduled against Worcestershire and Hong Kong.”

In addition, Ireland will have official warm-up games against Nepal and hosts Bangladesh.

The game against Worcestershire is in Dubai on March 7, while they face Hong Kong in Sharjah the following day.