Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
Ahead of the start of the series against Zimbabwe, captain Laura Delany spoke in a press conference about the squad’s preparations, expectations, world cup qualifiers, and personal achievements.
How have the preparations been and what are your expectations for the tour:
I don’t think this series could have come at a better time. We have a very big year ahead and to have three ODIs five T20Is in an away series, with different conditions and different challenges is brilliant. And as a squad we’ve had a break for a couple of months in terms of fixtures, so we’re now itching to get back out there.
I suppose my hope is that we go over and have series wins. We beat Zimbabwe away in October 2021 in the T20 and ODI format, but we know a lot can change within two years. We’ve had a really good opportunity to train as a group and work on individual things, but also as a fielding unit. That was one area that stood out when we were away playing against Scotland, so we’ve had time to work hard on that. It’s obviously very different training indoors, but now we have the opportunity to go over to Zimbabwe and get a bit of training under our belt outdoors before the first game. I suppose from a captaincy point of view, we want to win every single game over there, and we and we know that if we stick to the way that we want to play, that we can do that.
Everyone’s really excited about the tour. This is just the second time we’ve brought two different squads which shows the depth within the squad at the moment, in terms of having a different 15. We’re having a few players that have come in for the ODI format, but then go out for the T20 format. There’s a lot of excitement around the group. It was really nice to have a couple of weeks off over Christmas and everyone was ready to hit the ground running then on 2nd of January, which is when we came back for our first session. Obviously, we have a lot of players that are in school or college, so they had time off last week, so to have a whole group at all of our sessions was brilliant, not just for team cohesion, but in terms of who you’re facing and who you’re bowling against. We’re looking forward to getting out there and seeing what Zimbabwe’s like now that we’re going back to the same place. We obviously have fond memories there, and we know to an extent how the pitch will play and what the conditions are like.
Ireland beat Zimbabwe 3-1 the only time they played an ODI series in Zimbabwe in 2021. What’s changed since then:
One of the major changes for us as a group is having full-time contracts and having more players on contracts. You can see the younger players coming through that have played with a huge amount of freedom, have so much ability and talent. Particularly someone like Orla Prendergast and Amy Hunter, who are still two very young players but within our squad are considered senior players and have a big role at the top of the order, and they’ve done incredibly well over the last 12 months. If they get off to a great start, it gives our squad, and that playing 11 a great opportunity to go out and win that game.
And having more time training with each other we learn more about each other’s games, but we’re also tested more frequently. We train three or four times a week now as a group, where in the past and prior to that trip it would have been a couple of times a week and you would have been in a group where you might have been facing the same bowlers.
But now to be able to make sure that we face our left arm spinners and our quicks on a regular basis as a batting unit is really important. But then also as a bowling unit, making sure that we’re bowling to players that have that fire power and can take the game away from an opposition and allow us to put in better plans in training means that we’re more prepared when we go away and play against any opposition.
What are you as a squad looking to build on:
Taking early wickets with the ball would be massive for us. Obviously, removing the top players from the opposition, then gives your bowling attack more of an opportunity to pick away at those players that are in the middle order and hopefully reduce the overall target. We do have individual goals when it comes to all three disciplines, but as a group we would replicate the same, but I think it’s the fielding and I suppose being more powerful in that middle order. That’s one area that’s stood out when we played against the better sides. To now go out and try and do that when we play against Zimbabwe, who are pretty much neck and neck between us at times, will be a tough opportunity, but one that we really hope we go out and execute.
Is it safe to say that the journey to world cup qualification starts during this tour:
I think so. We start our series off with the ODI format, and having watched the men play in Harare last month, which is where we’ll be playing our games, the conditions are definitely different to when we were there previously. The wickets look a little bit more used, and possibly not as fresh, so I think we’re going to have to adjust when we get out there, but that’s what we want. We know when we go over to Abu Dhabi in April/May for the qualifiers that the conditions will be very different to what we’re used to here. The ball will probably turn a bit more, and again the wickets won’t be as fresh, so that will pose a different challenge. To have the ODI format first, obviously the longer format of the game will give us an opportunity as a batting and bowling unit to hopefully hit our plans, but to adjust where we need to.
Certa came on board to sponsor the Ireland Women’s team in 2023. Have you noticed a difference in what they are trying to do to help promote the women’s game in Ireland:
Yes, definitely. Obviously, we’ve had previous sponsors that have worked really hard in trying to promote the women’s game, but I can’t speak highly enough of Certa and what they’ve done to help increase the exposure and the audience around the women’s game. Going out to our Australia series in Clontarf, seeing players up on billboards as you drive around was great, because we wouldn’t have had that exposure in time gone by. And having ads on the streaming service as well definitely creates more exposure around the game, and that’s what we’re trying to do as athletes, But, to have an Irish company supporting us and driving that is brilliant.