“Seven games in this space of time doesn’t happen very often so we’re fortunate to get this opportunity.”
Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie is cautiously optimistic for his side’s prospects in 2021, starting with a seven game tour of Abu Dhabi.
Ireland managed just seven international fixtures in 2020, a total they will match by the end of this month.
Ireland’s last three games in the summer, and their only post lockdown, were against neighbours England.
They have not taken the field since that big win over Eoin Morgan’s side in Southampton.
However, they are now in Abu Dhabi ahead of a busy January schedule.
Balbirnie’s men have four ODIs versus the United Arab Emirates followed by three against Afghanistan.
Speaking ahead of the games, the Irish cricket captain said: “Seven ODIs in this space of time doesn’t happen very often so we’re fortunate to get this opportunity.”
“Looking ahead, there’s a lot to be excited about for Irish cricket, not just as a player but also as a fan.
“Everything being well, we’ll have a home summer with some big international teams coming over. We look forward to that.
“At the start of last year the schedule looked pretty good, lots of cricket and a World Cup thrown in there. Obviously that goes out the window when the global pandemic comes across.
“But we have been in the gym and in the nets, working hard and making sure that when the calls did come we were ready to go.”
Balbirnie will be missing a lot of senior internationals with experienced team-mates William Porterfield, Gary Wilson and Boyd Rankin all absent from the squad.
In place of the trio are the likes of Curtis Campher, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker and Neil Rock.
These young players will have the chance to take a step up, not least when World Cup qualifying points are on the line against Afghanistan.
The 30-year-old continued: “The message is just to back themselves. There are guys who aren’t with us who have done so much for the game and who’ve given us the opportunity to play international cricket as much as we do. So there’s an opportunity to stake a claim.
“They’re young guys, they’re great in the nets, they train really hard and have all the ideas and shots.
“What we want to see is them going out to express themselves and doing it on the park. It’s a lot easier said than done, especially here where conditions aren’t what they’re used to back home, but it’s exciting.
“I’m really looking forward to the year ahead and seeing how all those guys can adapt to the situations we’ll be in.”
Cricket Ireland approved a request from Afghanistan to move the start of the series back three days from January 18 to January 21.
This window is sufficient to allow enough quarantine period for players coming from the Big Bash League.
United Arab Emirates
- 1st ODI : Friday, 8th January
- 2nd ODI: Sunday 10th January
- 3rd ODI: Tuesday 12th January
- 4th ODI: Thursday 14th Janaru
- 1st ODI : Thursday, 21th January
- 2nd ODI: Sunday, 24th January
- 3rd ODI: Tuesday, 26th January