Cricket: Paul Stirling prefers to stay out of spotlight

Some Ireland cricketers love the attention that playing in a World Cup brings. 

Cricket: Paul Stirling prefers to stay out of spotlight

Ignored for four years by the media and all but a minority of Irish sporting fans, they revel in the spotlight of their six weeks in the sun.

Ireland opening batsman Paul Stirling is not one of those. He is a cricketing Paul Scholes, wary of press attention, uncomfortable with the formality of the interview process, and cautious with his words.

Scholes famously turned full circle on his retirement but it’s hard to imagine Stirling popping up on our screens when he eventually retires, sharing fishing stories on Sky Sports with Ian Botham or goofing around with David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd.

But Stirling’s man-of-the-match performance in Ireland’s impressive four-wicket World Cup Pool B victory over the West Indies in New Zealand on Monday brought the unwelcome obligation of a post-match live television interview with the broadcaster and former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop.

As Stirling walked away at the end of the 60-second conversation, Bishop turned back to the camera and wryly observed: “A man of few words”.

While a member of the Ireland backroom team says Stirling is “polite, articulate, and thoughtful” when relaxed and among friends, the 24-year-old admits he doesn’t enjoy the media attention that comes with being a World Cup cricketer.

“It was maybe a bit tongue in cheek from Ian Bishop, but I probably agree with his comment! I just don’t really like speaking that much.”

Stirling’s 92, in a 106-run second-wicket partnership with Ed Joyce, was the cornerstone of Ireland’s run chase against the West Indies, as William Porterfield’s got their third World Cup campaign off to the best possible start.

The West Indies fought back from 87-5 to post 304-7 from their 50 overs, thanks to Lendl Simmons’ century and Darren Sammy’s 89, but Stirling says Ireland were confident at the innings break that they could chase down a 300+ plus score for the third time in World Cups.

“We just did our own thing at the interval. William Porterfield and I had a bit of a chat but the mood was pretty good,” he said.

“We knew the wicket was good, and everybody felt that we could still win the game.

“We know we have to score 300 to win matches in this competition.

“We have played a lot of cricket now and we know that we have to be ruthless.

“We still thought the total was about par, and as it turned out we maybe could have gone on and scored 350 or 360.”

The Belfast-born Middlesex opener praised the contribution of Sussex captain Joyce, who played for England in the 2007 World Cup before re-qualifying for the country of his birth in 2011.

“He is a great batsman, one who has been around for a long time and who has done some great things for us,” he said.

“When you are out in the middle and batting with him, he has a calmness about him.

“He gives you the assurance to go out and do your own thing — he gives you confidence.”

Ireland’s 2011 World Cup win over England in Bangalore was famously followed by a late-night party at the hotel they shared with the vanquished England team.

The celebration after the win over the West Indies at the Saxton Oval was a far more subdued affair, and not just because of the sleepy nature of the city of Nelson, home to just 46,000 people.

“As soon as the game was over, we shook hands, as if it was just another win,” Stirling said.

“We had a couple of beers and a meal, but after the night was over we were focused on the next match,” he said.

“We realise that this is just the first match of the tournament.”

Next up for the Irish is a match against fellow associate side the United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The gap between the two games is nine days, an eternity for those members of the Irish squad keen to build momentum, but Stirling says he is enjoying the downtime in Brisbane.

“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating — I have enjoyed having a couple of days off!” he laughed.

“We have then had five days to prepare for the match against the UAE — and I certainly have no qualms about having seven days off!”

Ireland’s preparations have been hindered by the dreadful weather Brisbane has endured in recent days, with Queensland’s Gold Coast enduring rain and high winds as Cyclone Marcia nears land.

The squad have cancelled their outside training sessions on Friday, and were joined in the indoor training school by the Australia side, who play Bangladesh at the Gabba on Saturday morning.

Ireland have a strong record against the UAE, but Stirling says there will be no complacency in facing the part-timers, who are led by 43-year-old investment banker Mohammad Tauqir.

“The result against the West Indies means nothing if we don’t go out and put in a performance against UAE,” he said.

“It now becomes our biggest match of the tournament and we have to go in and play just as well as we did in Nelson.”

FACTFILE

NAME: Paul Stirling

AGE: 24

Club: Middlesex

Most memorable moment: Hitting the fourth-fastest World Cup century of all time in Ireland's victory over the Netherlands at Kolkata on March 18, 2011.

Favourite sporting event: The Ryder Cup

Social Media: @stirlo90 is the third most 'liked' World Cup cricketer on social media after his match-winning innings against the West Indies, according to the website #scorewithdata.

Song he'd choose to be played over the PA during gaps in play: None. “There was a WhatsApp group conversation between the players to decide what songs we wanted to put on the list - I don’t think I replied!”

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