KINGSTON, Jamaica – A COVID-19 outbreak in the Ireland camp has resulted in several headaches over combinations for the West Indies tour, but management says the touring party remained upbeat in the build-up to the four-match white-ball series starting on Saturday.
Veteran batting all-rounder Paul Stirling, along with 30-year-old seamer Shane Getkate, both tested positive before Ireland’s departure from Fort Lauderdale, while the duo of Andrew Balbirnie and Andy McBrine were forced into quarantine after being identified as close contacts of positive cases.
Ireland’s three-match One-Day International series against 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 New Year’s Eve minus Balbirnie, McBrine, Stirling and Getkate, and with the latter two players definitely out of the opening ODI, head coach David Ripley said there was some reorganising 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 centre 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 great 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 obviously 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 – rather 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.
Stirling’s unavailability, however, will be a huge blow for Ireland, the 31-year-old having 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 maybe 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.”