T20 World Cup: Bullish Ireland taking 'fearless' mindset into tournament

Ireland's Mark Adair
Adair is one of 10 players in the Ireland squad hoping to make his T20 World Cup debut
ICC Men's T20 World Cup: Ireland v Netherlands
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi Date: Monday 18 October Start time: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary from TMS on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website

Ireland bowler Mark Adair says his side will begin their T20 World Cup campaign with no fear and a belief that they are capable of beating any team.

The Irish start their tournament against the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi on Monday knowing there is little margin for error if they are to make the 'Super 12' group stages.

"It's a first experience for a lot of the lads," said Adair.

"Whenever you've never done something before, you've got nothing to fear."

Ranked 12th in the world, Ireland face the Dutch, Sri Lanka and Namibia this week in qualifying Group A needing a top-two finish to advance to the Super 12 stage, which begins on 23 October.

The team completed preparations with consecutive warm-up wins over Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh, which will have gone some way to allaying concerns over their form that arose after back-to-back defeats by the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

"From the UAE series, we learned that if we're not at our best we can get beaten by anyone," said Adair, who at 25 forms part of a youthful bowling attack.

"But we can beat any team put in front of us if we have a good day, and if they're slightly off then that's their problem. Especially in T20 cricket where the gap between the best team and the worst team just gets that little bit smaller."

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie
Ireland were handed a timely boost when X-rays revealed captain Andrew Balbirnie's toe injury was not as bad as initially feared

Most of Ireland's experience comes at the top of the order with 37-year-old Kevin O'Brien, captain Andrew Balbirnie and all-time leading white-ball run scorer Paul Stirling boasting 250 caps between them.

Just six of the squad that failed to make it out of the first round of the last T20 World Cup remain, with 10 of the 15-man panel having made their international debuts in the five years since.

"We're quite top heavy in terms of experience," Adair said.

"You've got a group who have between zero and 20 caps, maybe a small group between 20 and 50 caps but then you do have the heavy hitters up top with a lot of games and World Cups. It's always good to bounce things off them because they've obviously been in your shoes.

"There are a lot of guys here that have played cricket all around the world against a lot of these teams already so that will obviously give you a lot of confidence knowing these guys have done this before."

'Stirling Ireland's best ever'

Batter Stirling is Ireland's key man having moved past England's Eoin Morgan into sixth place in the all-time T20 run standings last month.

The Belfast native holds the national record for most runs in both T20 and ODI, and has displayed his talents on grand stages before - most recently hitting 61 off 36 balls for Southern Brave in the inaugural men's Hundred final.

"I personally think he's the best player to ever play for Ireland," said Adair.

"That could be a big shout but when it comes to talent and ability I certainly don't think there's anyone that I've seen play that is better than him.

"He's a leader on the field and a leader off it. We obviously lean on him quite a bit, but the less we can lean on him and just allow him to do Stirlo things, the better."

Paul Stirling in T20 action for Ireland against Zimbabwe
Stirling is Ireland's all-time leader T20 run scorer with 2,495 from 88 innings

Alongside Stirling, Ireland will look to Balbirnie to contribute handsomely at the top of the order, with the captain passed fit to play after an injury to his toe in the warm-up loss to the UAE threatened to derail his involvement.

Balbirnie spoke out in late September when Ireland were made to quarantine in their hotel rooms for six days upon arrival in the UAE, with the bubble environment still in operation throughout the tournament.

Having spent four weeks in a bubble during their home white-ball series against Zimbabwe in September, the Ireland players involved in the World Cup had only 10 days outside the environment before returning to the bubble for the duration of the competition.

"It's 10 weeks in which you have 10 days to spend a bit of time with your family and that's the difficulty people are facing," Adair said.

"I hate not being able to get away from the game. If you go out there and have a bad game, you come back to your room and you're potentially on your own.

"The bubble itself isn't bad. Whenever you're in nice hotels and you usually have an outdoor area you can go to. But whenever you find yourself somewhere new, like we're in Abu Dhabi here and I'm sitting overlooking the F1 track, it looks great but you've love to be able to get down there and have a look round."

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