Ireland batter Paul Stirling cannot wait for the Men’s T20 World Cup

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Paul Stirling has admitted Ireland are eager to make up for lost time and will take nothing for granted in the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

It has been five years since the country graced cricket’s top table after they failed to qualify for the 50-over tournament in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the sprint format competition by an extra 12 months.

The 31-year-old has been able to travel the world on the franchise circuit, which is a luxury not afforded to all of his team-mates – but even the experienced batter is desperate for Ireland to again make their mark at a World Cup.

“It means a lot for me. The older you get, the more you tend to not take things for granted, especially with this five-year gap,” Stirling said from their base in Dubai during a period of quarantine.

“When I was certainly younger, we tended to play in most of the World Cups and it became almost an automatic thing where not that you took it for granted but you assumed you would hopefully get there and perform well.

“But that sort of dried up with the 10-team World Cup coming in for 2019 and then the T20 not being on for five years adds a different perspective that these things don’t happen all the time, so we need to cherish it while it is here.

“There will be a real enjoyment factor for us and playing with a youthful squad helps. It brings that little bit of youth in yourself and reminds you of why you play cricket.”

Ireland are set to play five matches before they get the tournament under way with a crunch clash against the Netherlands on October 18 in Group A of the first round.

Key fixtures with Sri Lanka and Namibia also follow with the Green and Whites eager to improve on a T20 World Cup record which is poor in contrast to their 50-over exploits. A top-two finish would see them make the next phase of this tournament for only the second time.

Stirling added: “It is probably the most youthful squad I have played in or been with in recent times. There is really exciting talent there and they just need the opportunity to show it on the world stage.

“I am sure everybody is excited to show what they have got. We are lucky we have Gareth Delaney back from injury. He strikes a clean ball and played for Leicestershire last summer in the Blast.

“And Josh Little has been performing so well. Josh has been bowling 90mph, left-arm seam and was starting to swing it in the Zimbabwe series, so he is a pretty special talent. Hopefully we see the best of them and the world does because at their best and prepared properly, they can mix it with the best.”

A lot may rest on the shoulders of Stirling, who is Ireland’s leading run scorer in both white-ball formats and recently hit a maiden IT20 century against Zimbabwe.

Paul Stirling starred for Southern Brave in The Hundred
Paul Stirling starred for Southern Brave in The Hundred (Steven Paston/PA)

He also helped Southern Brave clinch victory in The Hundred in August with a match-winning 61 in the final, and ahead of his eighth appearance at a World Cup, the motivation remains the same for the Belfast opener.

“It would be a success if we made it through to the next round and competed in the second round of a World Cup again,” Stirling insisted.

“If we get there it would just be great for the country. You know how much publicity it would be back home and cricket would be in the headlines again so young kids might see that and think ‘that is the way I want to go’.

“Those things are important to us as a team. Hopefully we can get there. We are not trying to put too much pressure on our shoulders because we have a young squad and whatever happens I think we will be better for it.”

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