In his first press conference as the new Irish cricket coach in April, John Bracewell admitted he had coveted the job long before Phil Simmons left for the West Indies.
Three months into the job, and the 57-year-old must be left wondering whether he should have cashed in his pension early to enjoy the easy life back in native New Zealand instead.
After 11 trophies in eight years under Simmons, the Irish team have stumbled through to next March’s World Twenty20 in India after a miserable qualifying campaign on home soil.
Ireland lost their third match of the tournament when they were beaten by the Netherlands in the semi-final in Malahide on Saturday, their fifth defeat in six completed T20 internationals against fellow associates under Bracewell.
Ireland finished third in the tournament on the basis of their higher group position, after Sunday’s third-placed play-off against Hong Kong was abandoned due to rain without a ball being bowled.
Bracewell admits he was surprised that the Irish top order, most of whom play their T20 cricket in England, struggled to adapt during the tournament to the damp and green wickets in Malahide and Stormont.
“It defies belief really that they were unable to continue the form they arrived with from Twenty20 cricket in England,” Bracewell said.
“They were slightly overwhelmed by the pressure of having to perform in front of our own crowd, and we have to deal with that expectation, and of playing with the favourites’ tag.”
Bracewell was pleased by the performances of his bowlers during the qualifying tournament, with John Mooney, Alex Cusack and Kevin O’Brien all impressing on seaming pitches.
“I’d give the bowlers 10 out of 10, and the batsmen five out of 10,” Bracewell continued.
“I think we have bowled directly and to our plans throughout the tournament, and picked up wickets through our medium pacers.
“We were aggressive with the ball, and our bowling kept us in the tournament.”
Bracewell insists that he does not see any need to make drastic changes to his squad in the eight months leading up to the 2016 World Twenty20, but acknowledges that he has been in touch with Boyd Rankin to try convince the fast bowler to re-declare for Ireland.
Warwickshire fast bowler Rankin retired from Ireland duty in August 2012 to concentrate on pursuing an international career with England, but the 31-year-old has been out of favour over the water following his disastrous Test debut against Australia in January 2014.
“I’ve spoken to Boyd, and I have let him know that he will always be welcome here,” Bracewell continued.
“I thought it was my duty as the new coach to introduce myself and to tell him that the door is open should he want to come back to Ireland.”
The Ireland coach says he understands why Rankin turned down his approach and says the Bready paceman is determined to win a recall to the England squad.
“He doesn’t want to be remembered as a one-Test wonder, which is quite right, but that is out of his hands.”
Meanwhile fast bowler Mark Wood is hopeful England can recreate their famous 2005 Ashes victory at Edgbaston.
With the series level at 1-1 with three Tests to play heading to Edgbaston, England head to Birmingham on Wednesday with their tails between their legs after being heavily beaten at Lord’s.
Wood hopes some of the 2005 magic can rub off on him.
“I remember watching 10 years ago in a local cricket club in Ashington because Harmy (former England paceman Steve Harmison) was playing and he was a big hero for everyone at the club and a friend of mine and we were all watching it in there... it was fantastic.
“I hope it doesn’t get that close in this game, but I would love to put a performance in like that.”
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