Ireland ponders combination for Windies ODIs after COVID disruption

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Veteran batsman Paul Stirling.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A COVID-19 outbreak in the Ireland camp has resulted in several headaches over combinations for the West Indies tour. Still, management says the touring party remained upbeat in building the four-match white-ball series starting here next Saturday.

Veteran batting all-rounder Paul Stirling and 30-year-old seamer Shane Getkate tested positive before Ireland departed from Fort Lauderdale. At the same time, the duo of Andrew Balbirnie and Andy McBrine was forced into quarantine after being identified as close contacts of positive cases.

Ireland’s three-match One-Day International series against the United States was scrapped last week after two members of their support staff tested positive, along with several partners of players who are also on tour.

The touring side arrived here on New Year’s Eve minus Balbirnie, McBrine, Stirling, and Getkate. With the latter two players definitely out of the opening ODI, head coach David Ripley said there was some reorganizing which needed to be done.

“It’s certainly been a challenging trip from the outset; having a few staff and players down at the outset didn’t help our preparation,” Ripley explained.

“We managed to have a good net on the center square just after we arrived, but it was only one session, and our squad was short of seam bowlers to help facilitate the batters. So it wasn’t as ideal as it could have been.

“However, a significant positive of the trip so far is the way the lads have rolled their sleeves up and mucked in – I’ve been impressed that during a bit of adversity, the lads have just got stuck in. 

“There’s some frustration over the fixtures not being able to proceed, but hopefully now the frustration can end as we move on to play some high-profile 50-over cricket against the West Indies.”

He continued: “Likewise with the support staff, we have had some challenges with COVID, but once more, they haven’t clocked off – instead, they’ve continued to work hard from their isolation in preparing the squad as best they can for the next leg in Jamaica. 

“We have a replacement coming in, which will help greatly, but we have been well-supported by the staff here, even those working from isolation.”

Ireland will face West Indies in three ODIs and a single Twenty20 International; all carded for behind closed doors at Sabina Park due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Stirling’s unavailability will be a massive blow for Ireland; the 31-year-old has scored over 7,000 runs in the white-ball format, including four half-centuries in ten ODI innings against West Indies.

“With Paul out of the first ODI, we’ll have a bit of an internal debate now with Andrew about whether he moves up to open or whether we pick someone who may be who outside the box to go in at the top,” Ripley said.

“We do have several options, and I’m pretty confident we’ve got some decent Plan B’s now that Stirlo is out of game one.

“It hasn’t been a perfect trip to date, but what we’re focusing on now is looking ahead and getting some decent cricket under our belts.”

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