Irish giant-killers lose out to slick India in Bangalore

Mon, Mar 7, 2011, 00:00

THERE WAS no fairytale ending in Bangalore yesterday but Irish cricket fans who squeezed into Pembroke Cricket Club to watch Ireland v India weren’t too downhearted. India ran out the winners by five wickets in the 47th over

“We certainly didn’t disgrace ourselves and we had a good few chances against one of the best teams in the world,” said Deirdre Forsyth, whose daughter plays for the Irish women’s cricket team.

When Indian talisman Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed by Ireland’s 18-year-old spinner George Dockrell (who wasn’t born when Tendulkar started his international career) Irish fans cheered wildly. Moments later when India were reduced to 100 for four wickets the pavilion went nuts as an upset seemed possible.

“Ireland are a massively improved team since the last World Cup. We have six full professionals contracted in Ireland now and we are real competitors,” said Andrew Balbirnie, a 20-year old Pembroke player who narrowly missed out on the Irish squad. “I won four caps with Ireland over the summer and it is my ambition to make my career playing for my country,” said Balbirnie.

Rohit Bahl is one of thousands of Asians – Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – who are transforming cricket in Ireland. “I came here in 2009 to work for Dell and joined Pembroke then. Indians are very passionate about cricket. It is the national sport. We have a good chance of winning the World Cup,” said Bahl. A few hours earlier at the Russell Court Hotel, the mood was upbeat during Ireland’s innings as more than 100 fans cheered every boundary in Bangalore. “Since we beat England last week the whole place has gone cricket mad,” said Ciara Metcalfe, captain of the Irish women’s cricket team.

Several members of the Irish women’s team turned up to watch the men on the big screen and support the team.

“We’re heading off to Sri Lanka in six weeks to prepare for our World Cup qualifiers,” said Metcalfe, whose team is ranked ninth in the world – ahead of the men’s team, which is ranked 10th.

Gerard O’Brien, brother of record-breaker Kevin O’Brien, was still basking in the glory of the victory over England.

“It’s been crazy . . . I would think there will probably be an offer for Kevin for the Indian premier league after that destructive innings,” he said.

Dave Langford-Smith, one of Ireland’s heroes in the last World Cup in the Caribbean, who starred in the shock victory over Pakistan in 2007, said he was proud of what the team is achieving.

“The win over England was even better than that win against Pakistan because England played well that day . . . Irish cricket is really on the way up,” he said.