One of the great modern mysteries of international cricket would always tackle a question that warrants a possibly unsolvable debate. Should the eminent and respected ICC have done something more strategic and urgent as to have inducted teams like Ireland in a manner that they would’ve played more frequently than they do?
The Ireland Enigma
What if competing for top honours among mainstream sides would’ve come early for Ireland, for instance in the 2007 World Cup?
As a cricket team, Ireland can perplex others.
When one sees this live wire of a team, it doesn’t appear for a second that has been playing international cricket among the 12 full-members for only a decade.
Everything goes right for them when they play as a unit. They are backed by the experience of players like Ed Joyce. They are powered by an interesting pace attack led by Boyd Rankin. And when you’ve got a batsman of Paul Stirling’s character and skill at the very top, you cannot afford to ignore them.
Back in 2011 ICC World Cup, the way they defeated England was indicative of a devastating streak that only a few teams, of a very high caliber, sought and brought to the contest.
Why’s his career like his surname- Paul ‘Stirling’
To that end, Ireland cricket is also a quizzical enigma of sorts. Their bunch of talents and their feats propagate the raising of a question.
For a batsman who struck 2 of his 7 ODI hundreds even before turning 23, one wonders just how many centuries would Paul Stirling had gone on to strike had Ireland been drafted into the main fray a bit earlier? In no way does Paul Stirling’s career do an injustice to his abilities as a batsman. And at the same time stays true to his surname.
Of their present lot, Ed Joyce forayed into international ODI cricket even before the likes of William Porterfield, Niall O’ Brien and Paul Stirling
Porterfield would arrive in August of 2006 while Joyce and Kevin O’Brien would debut in the same game, a couple of months earlier, circa June 2006. Yet, while it warms the heart to note that at least three of their many big names- Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien and Niall O’Brien- ended up playing over 100 ODI games, Ed Joyce, their most experienced campaigner has not even played 80 contests.
How Paul Stirling’s fared recently
When you split down Paul Stirling’s career, then you realise in a decade of playing since debuting in 2008, he appeared in only 42 matches in first five years. In the next five, however, he’d go on to star in 58 contests.
In the same bated breath while you feel glad that Paul Stirling’s collected the first major landmark that any international cricketer wishes to achieve- of playing 100 ODIs- even before his 30th, you also wonder just how many would he have already played had Ireland played more often.
Of the many assurances that Paul Stirling, the frequent ball-basher, belligerent timer and cover drive striker provided to his team was the comfort of collecting runs with rich aplomb in two of the only ICC World Cup’s Ireland have been a part of.
In 2011, when he’d already raised his bat having brought the Netherlands to the ground, his century coming off only 70 deliveries, he went on to gather a strike rate of 122. In the next world cup, where he’d only gather 159 runs with a personal best of 92 in 2015, he’d still compile runs with quintessential blaze going at a strike rate of 100.
Ireland’s flamboyant bat at the top order
Of the few batsmen who happen to offer the full face of the bat, very early on in a contest, regardless of who they are up against, Paul Stirling seems to be in an interesting corridor of certainty.
His confident brand of batting reflects an interesting parallel between a Virender Sehwag-style comfort on the one hand and an Inzamam ul-Haq-style maneuvering of the ball around, on the other.
An average of 35 indicates, that his potential is probably top up his average over 40 and a strike rate of 90, quite a feat to be managing having struck a century of playing ODIs
Having struck 7 ODI hundreds already and sitting comfortably in the confines of nearly 3500 runs, Paul Stirling highlights the need to dissect his career into two interesting halves.
On the first, is him having collected 4 of his 7 centuries even before completing the calendar year 2011. And on the other is his proven excellence at collecting valuable runs with precise consistency, as indicated by scoring 656 in 2017 (16 ODIs), 2017 in 2016 (9 ODIs), 371 in 2015 (14 ODIs). In the last three years, he’d not only go on to strike 10 of his 17 fifties but would, on no occasion, bring down his strike rate- read hammering rate- under 82.
For a batsman whose modern contemporaries, such as, Andre Russell, Fakhar Zaman, Colin Munro, among players right up his talent’s measure- bear bigger batting strike rates but not the experience, Paul Stirling’s name commands some respect of having nearly been with Ireland since their mainstream modern inception, of playing amid the contemporary biggies.
Paul Stirling now
It also augurs well for a generation of cricketers who play beside him, sporting the ephemeral green, such as George Dockrell, part of an era starting 2010, where Ireland played more often than they did in the past.
While the heartache of having missed out in the third world cup, slated for 2019, would hurt Paul Stirling’s Irish fans and lovers of the global game for whom he represents an unabashed passion for batting, there’s more.
You’ve got to value that Stirling would be soul-crushed at having missed out on contributing what might have been a handsome aggregation for his nation, before anything else. He may not be the finest maestro of spin but can hold on to his own well against pace and medium-fast any day.
But that he’s just 28 with at least half a decade of cricket in him ahead and probably more, one can be heartened to note that there are many blazing knocks left in Paul Stirling.