Ireland interim head coach David Ripley has been impressed by the work ethic of the squad and insists there is now good competition for places as the players build-up to the T20 World Cup qualifying tournament.

Two months into the job and Ripley, the former Director of Cricket at Northamptonshire, has been a breath of fresh air, with new ideas, culminating in Ireland’s historic series victory in West Indies last month.

They were one-day internationals, however, where Ireland are undoubtedly more comfortable than in the T20 arena, as proven by their failure to reach their Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup last October.

That left them having to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Australia, and has taken them to Oman where Ripley will say farewell to the squad in 16 days’ time, handing over the reins to new head coach Heinrich Malan.

Ripley expects to leave on a high and, he believes, the addition of the two most impressive players in Jamaica, Harry Tector and Andy McBrine, who were on the periphery of the T20 squad last year, can only enhance their prospects this month.

“Tector can cover a number of positions and there’s healthy competition. It’s a tight group with tough selections ahead,” said Ripley.
Harry is confident he can make a contribution in T20 cricket. He was disappointed he wasn’t in the original squad and he is going to be a big player for Ireland for many years.

“He still has to pin down a spot (in the T20 side) but I like a player who can be the glue in the innings and he has put his hand up for that role (against Curtis Campher). Otherwise, he will need a 140 strike rate coming in towards the end of the innings because that’s what you need from your 5, 6 and 7. He is a brilliant fielder as well.
Andy is a very good competitor, very good team man, do any job you give him, will chip in with runs and if the wicket is going to spin and the opposition have left handers he’ll be pushing Simi (Singh) if we want to play more than one spinner.

“Andy was superb in West Indies. No-one hits off spinners harder in world cricket than Kieran Pollard and he got him out twice. It’s a case of players performing well forcing their way into the squad and that’s a very good place to be.”

As a county wicket-keeper for 18 years, Ripley thoughts on the wicket-keeping duel between Lorcan Tucker, recalled to the T20 squad for this tournament, and Neil Rock are worth listening to.

“I like both cricketers,” said Ripley. “It will be a good scrap down the years. Neil slightly edged the out and out wicket-keeping skills but Lorcan’s batting and ability to play different type of innings got him the nod.
“Both are looking to improve but Lorcan earned his place because of his form in the United States (when he scored back to back 50s).”

They were both made at No 3, in the absence of Gareth Delany, but with the latter now back in the squad, has Tucker a chance of staying at the top of the order?

“That will be a good debate,” adds a non-committal Ripley. But there is definitely competition for the spots, Don’t forget about George Dockrell who showed power in Jamaica, we have a class player in Paul Stirling and Andrew Balblrnie looked in good nick without getting a score in the T20s.”