'Perform, and help young bowlers' - Rankin relishing leader's role

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20 Apr 2020 | 09:18 AM
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Hardik Worah

'Perform, and help young bowlers' - Rankin relishing leader's role

He talks about his current role in the Ireland team, areas they need to work on before the T20 World Cup, and much more

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The giant right-arm paceman, Boyd Rankin has been Ireland's best bowler in One-Day Internationals and T20 Internationals in the last two years. The 35-year-old has picked up more wickets than any Ireland bowler in the limited-overs formats. The six feet and seven inches tall fast bowler has been playing international cricket for over 13 years and is now in the twilight of his career. However, Rankin is extremely fit and still going strong. His role is not just restricted to his own bowling but Rankin also looks after the younger bowlers and is keen on helping them so that they can serve Ireland cricket in future.

Rankin, who has represented both Ireland and England in all three formats, recently spoke to Cricket.com about his current role in the Ireland team, areas that they need to work on before the T20 World Cup, and much more. Excerpts:  

How has the last two-three weeks been? What have you been up to?

I spent the first few weeks in Birmingham keeping busy with fitness work and house jobs that needed to be done. I then travelled back to Northern Ireland to help out on the family farm as most of my family are at high risk, so helping them out over the next month or so until we have a better idea how things are going. 

I am also trying to learn Italian at the moment as my girlfriend was born and grew up there so it will come in useful when we travel to Italy. Apart from that, I’m currently back on the farm and there is always plenty of jobs that can be done in self-isolation.

You would have been in Zimbabwe right now. How are you coping up with no-cricket life?

Yeah, it hasn’t been easy, to say the least. It’s been difficult not to get into the gym and have a bowl. Being so used to playing all year round, to have a long period of time at home to spend with my girlfriend has been strange but it’s nice to spend more time with her.

Ireland weren't part of the 2019 World Cup. You guys must have been looking forward to the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia but now there are chances it might get postponed. How were the preparations going?

The preparations have been going really well, especially with wins over West Indies and Afghanistan this year. It’s frustrating with the postponed games against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But there are bigger things in the world right now so whenever it is safe to get back playing then we will. We are eager to get back and getting ready for the World Cup. We have been given fitness programs that we can do at home and I have a spin bike so all fitness is covered. I’m missing not bowling though and have no idea when I will next get the chance to do that.

There are also chances you might not get many opportunities to play competitive T20 cricket and directly get thrown in Australia for the World Cup. 

We haven’t discussed about it yet but depending on the situation I would hope if the World Cup goes ahead as planned then we will get a couple of months of prep leading into it. And that we can arrange some fixtures against a few countries leading up to it but I’m not sure how feasible that might be. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Ireland won a T20I against West Indies earlier this year and then all three matches against Afghanistan were quite close. What do you think of the current T20I side? They seem to have a good mix of youth and experience.

I think we are on the right track and plenty of positives to take from the West Indies and Afghanistan series. There is a great blend at the moment with a few good talented players coming through. It’s important to have experience mixed in there to help and guide the younger players and it's working really well. It’s important to me to try and progress Irish cricket for years to come so we can compete and beat the best teams in the world.

You are the most experienced bowler in the Ireland side. What are your roles as the leader of the pack? Can you tell us about the young talents coming up and anyone particular who has impressed you the most?

My role is to lead from the front and put in performances for the team. At the same time, I will talk to the younger bowlers and help with fields, tactics against different batters and anything they might be working on with the action or skills. I enjoy that side now as I see it as my responsibility to help them anyway I can to keep cricket moving forward for Ireland. And I would love to get involved with coaching one day and it’s a great opportunity to have my coach's hat on.

Young talents from a bowling point of view, I would say Josh Little and David Delany are two of the best young prospects, I have seen enough of them and they have a big future ahead if they can stay fit and progress.

If we are just talking about Ireland's T20I side, what do you think is your biggest strength, and an area where you guys need to work on?

We lack a bit with our batting and firepower in the middle order. We start really well and then lose a bit of momentum in the middle order, so if we can improve in that we will set and chase bigger totals. Our top order and bowling, in general, has been pretty good apart from a few overs where we get hit and lose momentum a little. So if we can tighten that up and restrict those big overs and at the death, we will be in good positions. T20 can be won or lost in a matter of a few overs, for you or against you, so if we can minimise those overs then we will be on the right track.

You recently turned down the chance to return to your home club Bready and signed with Lisburn. Why did you make the shift, and you must be excited playing alongside your younger brother Robert?

I am an overseas player in Birmingham club cricket and originally we had a lot of games in Belfast over the summer and it just made sense to get a chance to play alongside Robert and I know Lisburn is a great club. It was only a handful of games and it was also easier travel wise flying in and out of Belfast to Birmingham where I live at present.

You will turn 36 in July. So once the T20 World Cup is done, what next for Boyd Rankin?

I still feel in good shape physically and I feel I am bowling well so I would love to play for another year or two depending on the situation and how my body is. I have had my best years with Ireland in the last 2/3 years so there is no reason why I can’t continue to play at my best and also help guide the younger lads' progress at the same time.

After cricket, I am keen to stay involved with the game in a coaching capacity. I have interests in farming and property so I will hopefully be kept busy.

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William Boyd RankinIrelandICC World Twenty20, 2020

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