Ireland-Pakistan Test revives World Cup memories

Ireland's William Porterfield, left, and Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed pose with the trophy after the press conference at Malahide Cricket Club, Malahide, Ireland on May 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 May 2018
0

Ireland-Pakistan Test revives World Cup memories

  • Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean with a stunning three-wicket win in Jamaica
  • Ireland will not be a part of next year's World Cup after missing out in a 10-team qualifying tournament where only Afghanistan and the West Indies made it through to the finals

DUBLIN: Ireland will be huge underdogs when they face Pakistan in their inaugural men's Test match at Malahide on Friday.
But several members of their squad already know what it's like to cause a huge upset against Pakistan, having played in the Ireland side that knocked the Asian giants out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean with a stunning three-wicket win in Jamaica.
It was the stuff of fairytales with Ireland, a team of part-timers containing school teachers, farmers and postmen defeating the Asian giants -- and on St Patrick's Day as well.
One of the few green-tinged pitches in the West Indies, and thereby reminiscent of surfaces at home in Ireland, was matched by fans wearing Irish green shirts in a jubilant crowd at Kingston's Sabina Park.
The fairytale soon became a nightmare, however, when Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the former England batsman who in his previous development role with the International Cricket Council had done much to raise the standard of non-Test nations, was found dead in his hotel room the next morning.
Ireland dismissed Pakistan for a meagre 132 with fast bowler Boyd Rankin -- set to be involved in the Test -- taking three wickets.
Ireland were soon 15 for two before an innings of 72 from Niall O'Brien, also in the Test squad, got them back on track before now-retired captain Trent Johnston won the match with a six off Azhar Mahmood.
"It was the start of something special," Johnston told The42.ie website. "The start of an amazing journey and a day when the rest of the world sat up and took notice of us as a cricketing nation."
Ireland's victory came just 48 hours after they had exceeded many people's expectations by playing out a tie with another Test side in Zimbabwe.
"I was lucky I won that toss," said Johnston, who was also rightly proud of the "bloody good cricket," Ireland played against Pakistan.
"We were a bunch of amateurs going to a World Cup and we had absolutely nothing to lose," he added.
Irish joy was quickly tempered by widespread mourning for Woolmer, whose sudden death gave rise to a host of wild conspiracy theories.
Although no one knew it at the time, Ireland's win perversely damaged the cause of aspiring cricket nations.
Pakistan and arch-rivals India were both knocked out in the first round, a huge blow to organisers banking on their fans to pack out grounds later on, as well as broadcasters who had paid heavily for television rights in the subcontinent.
The ICC, as much a club for its leading members as a global governing body, soon decided a repeat had to be avoided at all costs.
That outlook has led to next year's World Cup in England being shrunk to a 10-team event, with an all-play-all group stage.
Ireland, however, will not be there after missing out in a 10-team qualifying tournament where only Afghanistan and the West Indies made it through to the finals.


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
0

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”