Consistency the next hurdle for ‘fearless’ Ireland – head coach Heinrich Malan

Head coach Heinrich Malan believes consistency is now the next hurdle for Ireland after suggesting a key to their recent success has been understanding how to be “fearless”.

Ireland have been the surprise package at the T20 World Cup, eliminating two-time champions the West Indies to get beyond the first round of this tournament for the first time since 2009.

The second-lowest ranked team remaining in the competition have now blown their Super 12s group wide open, bouncing back from their Sri Lanka defeat to beat England in a rain-affected game on Wednesday.

Ireland beat England at the MCG on Wednesday night (Scott Barbour/PA)
Ireland beat England at the MCG on Wednesday night (Scott Barbour/PA)

Ireland are used to causing upsets on the global stage but Malan hopes facing top-tier teams on a more regular basis can lead to these results becoming more frequent and less of a shock.

Ireland have had T20 series against India, New Zealand and South Africa in recent months and – while they lost all seven matches – the chance to test themselves has been an important learning curve.

Malan told the PA news agency: “The more we play big games and the more we play consistent cricket at big levels, we’ll get better at it.

“That’s our challenge: to be consistent, I’ve said this since I’ve been appointed. The end goal is to be consistent across formats.

“There’s a fair few challenging aspects but that’s hopefully what I can bring to the table and hopefully we can create some consistency over a period of time, I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Malan succeeded fellow South African Graham Ford in the Irish hotseat in March and has attempted to get his side to think more about how they can tip the balance in their favour, especially in T20s.

He said: “I don’t think we’ve necessarily changed the wheel, to be honest. Since I’ve come on board, my main priority has been trying to create some clarity around what being fearless means.

“It’s not just ‘close your eyes and play’, there’s a bit of a method to the madness. You look at T20 cricket around the world, that’s the formula that’s out there at the moment.

“It’s the understanding of what are your strengths? How do you set people up to come to your strengths? How do you take high-pressure and low-pressure risks to get people to play into your strengths?”

Ireland have little time to bask on their latest triumph over their near-neighbours – 11 years on from their seminal 50-over World Cup win at Bangalore – as they take on Afghanistan at the MCG on Friday.

Asked for his targets for the rest of the tournament, Malan replied: “We want to try and win – that’s the nature of the beast. But that’s the outcome part of it.

“We’ve seen over a period of time, if we keep focusing on controlling our performance, sometimes the bounce of the ball will give you the result and sometimes it won’t. But at least we’ve got something measurable and that’s the brand of cricket we want to play.”