Though Ireland hasn't played too many matches against the major cricket-playing nations since the 2007 ICC World Cup, their captain William Porterfield says his squad is improving with every game. Porterfield believes Ireland has a well-balanced squad and his players are in good shape going into the World Cup. The Irish captain feels India and Sri Lanka are favourites to win the 2011 World Cup. Excerpts from an interview with Yahoo! Cricket:
Ireland has been placed in a tough group for the 2011 World Cup alongside the likes of India, South Africa and England. Is Ireland confident of progressing to the knockout stages?
Yeah we are confident of atleast progressing to the quarter-finals. It will then be a question of kicking on from there. The World Cup in the subcontinent will be a different experience altogether. If we can prepare well beforehand, we can definitely do well.
Does the fact that Ireland defied expectations in the 2007 World Cup and reached the Super Eight stage of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 seen more Irish youngsters take to cricket?
The performance in the 2007 World Cup really invoked a lot of interest and publicity around the game in the country. Cricket has not spread as much as football within Ireland. But the more we can do by way of positive results the better it will be for Irish cricket as we can get more youngsters involved.
Ed Joyce has been allowed to play for Ireland in the 2011 CWC. How much will his experience help Ireland?
It is very crucial to have anyone of that kind of experience in the squad. It is great for us to tap into his knowledge. The best way is for the younger players to look up to him. The kind of experience Ed has will be crucial factor when we get into the really important stages. It is great to have him on board.
Did Eoin Morgan's decision to play for England adversely affect the development and progress of the Irish team?
It was disappointing at the time it happened. But it is two-three years since he left. We have moved on. He has also moved on. He is doing well for himself. Irish cricket has also progressed. We cannot live in the past anymore. I can only wish him all the best for the future.
Ireland has hardly played against the major cricket-playing nations despite being the best performing associate nation since the 2007 World Cup. Will this inexperience hurt Ireland in the 2011 World Cup?
I don't think so. We have been doing well whenever we have played the full members. We have played them quite a bit. We ran Australia close last year, we beat Bangladesh twice. We lost to England two years ago by two runs. We are learning a lot from these games. The results may not have been positive. But we are that stage as a squad, where we are improving every game. The squad is raring to go at the tournament.
Who are Ireland's key players in the 2011 World Cup?
Boyd Rankin is fitter and stronger than ever before. He has got the potential to strike early. Then there is George Dockrell who has made great strides with his relaxed and calm approach. Paul Stirling is the most talented cricketer we have. At 20 nothing fazes him. I love watching him bat from the other end.
Boyd Rankin, who was Ireland's highest wicket-taker in the 2007 World Cup, has only recently recovered from a stress fracture in his foot. But, Rankin hasn't played since July 2010. Will the lack of match practice affect your strike bowler at the 2011 CWC?
I don't think it will be an issue. He has been playing for Warwickshire. He had a stress fracture which flared up again. But now he has had time to recuperate. He is presently training in India at the MRF Pace Foundation. So game time is not an issue. We will have two warm up games, he would have had lots of overs by them. It is great to have him back.
Does Ireland have the squad to exploit the conditions in the sub-continent?
We do have the squad. It is a great mixture. The pitches may be slower and lower but we have bowlers who can take the pace off the ball. Also with matches being played at night, dew could be a factor, which means it will nullify the spin factor. We have Boyd and Trent (Johnston) who can exploit the conditions. Well. Our fielding is one of our key factors. We have a good all-round game. Overall we are in a good shape going into the World Cup.
What has Phil Simmons' contribution to Irish cricket been since he took over as coach of the national team?
He has been in charge since 2007. He has played in the big tournaments. He has featured in around 130 ODIs and 30 Tests. He has played all around the world. His experience is important not just on the field, but even off it. He has played in India and understands the conditions. He can guide the younger lads on what to expect, how to deal with the media. We can't wait to get to India and play there.
Who, according to you, are the favourites in the 2011 World Cup?
It is very hard to go past India. You would have to say the subcontinental teams will be favourites considering that they will be playing familiar conditions. Australia is back with a bang, England has been playing well for 12 to 18 months. But it is very hard to get past India and Sri Lanka at this tournament.