Paul Stirling gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune during the earlier stages of the BPL where he expressed fondness for his idol Damien Martyn growing up, his memorable ODI hundred against Pakistan, and Irish and Bangladesh cricket in general
Under-rated he might be but Paul Stirling is still one of the most explosive opening batsmen around, especially in the limited-over formats. The right-handed Irish batsman has overseen quite an interesting international career over the past decade, enjoying some memorable wins along the way. Also an integral part of the Middlesex set-up in the English County circuit, the 28-year old is currently playing for Khulna Titans in the BPL. He gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune during the earlier stages of the BPL where he expressed fondness for his idol Damien Martyn growing up, his memorable ODI hundred against Pakistan, and Irish and Bangladesh cricket in general. Here are the excerpts:
How did your professional career begin?
I basically got signed by Middlesex when I was 17 years old. Went across to London and haven’t looked back since there, sort of been there for 11 years now and really enjoying it.
Why choose cricket as a profession?
I think I really enjoyed it when I was younger. Lived beside a cricket ground, always went down, loved practising, loved the game so whenever you find that affection about something at such a young age then it just grows in you and you actually want to do it.
Ireland have recently gained the Test status. What’s the target now for you guys in the Test arena?
Probably to get our first win. I think history says it’s pretty difficult whenever you first get Test status. For teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe it took a while to get that win under their belt, so we’ll be searching to find it. We’ve got a great opportunity against Afghanistan in March. We know how much of a threat they are at the minute, their spin attack. Hopefully we can perform well and have a sniff to get a win there.
What is it like for the younger talents coming through in Irish cricket at the moment?
It’s a big job at the minute, sort of developing the younger lads coming through. There (are) a lot of people in the same age group from 24-28 who are exciting talents, and a couple of younger ones coming through as well. So we look forward to seeing their developments and hopefully, they can come and really make an impression.
You previously played in the BPL for Sylhet Royals, and now you’re featuring for the Titans. Have you enjoyed your BPL experience thus far?
I absolutely love it, I think it’s a brilliant competition, and one of the leading T20 competitions in the world now. It’s just really exciting, you get good crowds here, and hopefully that continues.
What is it like playing under the stewardship of a legendary cricketer like Mahela Jayawardene?
Great player, yeah, brilliant coach as well. You learn so much from him when you’ve been here for weeks.
Have you taken any batting tips from him?
Absolutely, of course, yeah (laughs). How to hit all around the park, he’s been excellent so far.
You’re an attacking batsman by nature, especially in the shorter formats. How do you go about your business?
Keep it simple as possible. Watch the ball as hard as you can and try and be better than the opposition.
Who’s your idol in the game?
I think my favourite batter was Damien Martyn, Australian legend, and just made the game look so easy, which is something I completely feel today.
You are also more than a handy off-spinner. Would you term yourself as an all-rounder, or just an opening batsman?
Mainly an opening batsman, and part time spin. Not much more I think. Hopefully come on and do a good job for the team in one or two overs in T20, maybe pick up a wicket, maybe not.
You have played quite a few memorable knocks in the international arena. Can you pick some of your favourites?
Maybe the one that stands out was against Pakistan, the century in Belfast, don’t remember which year (2011). I think that’s when I was batting my best, so always try to repeat that feat.
You also scored a century at Lord’s against Yorkshire. What was that like?
Yeah, that was a four-day century, always nice to come back (at Lord’s). It’s four-day cricket, red-ball cricket so that was amazing, especially Lord’s as well. It has got such great history, to bring up three figures was a great day.
The conditions and wickets in England and Ireland are pretty similar. What’s the basic difference between the wickets in those places and in the sub-continent?
The difference in the wickets is certainly the bounce, the pace. In England, it always sort of comes on, spinners are less effective, you can play a lot behind square maybe. And here, obviously it turns a little bit, it’s a touch slower. I enjoy the challenge in both (places). It brings challenges no matter which way round it is. Here you come up against a lot of good spinners, and seamers with their change of pace, it’s difficult so that’s why you’ve got to try and conquer both.
You earlier mentioned your love for biriyani. What other Bangladeshi foods do you like?
(Laughs). I like biriyani a lot obviously. I do also like the mutton curry, it would be up there for me.
Do people back home watch the BPL?
Yeah, they certainly would. It’s on Sky Sports back home, whatever channel it is so I’m sure a few people would be watching. They just enjoy their sport, it’s a sporting nation, be it cricket, football or rugby they just enjoy their sports, so cricket’s one of them.
How has Irish cricket changed over the years?
I think the cricket organisation has grown. I think it was completely different when it wasn’t fully professional, when I was watching the guys. They were working jobs and playing cricket. I think that’s the biggest difference.
How do you assess the Bangladesh fans’ love for the game?
Bangladesh did well, they got good crowds, I think that’s a tell-tale sign of being successful and from a player’s point of view it’s always great to play in front of the crowd, it always gets your genes up.
You got the opportunity to play a lot of Bangladeshi bowlers ahead of the tri-nation series just prior to the World Cup 2019 featuring host Ireland, the West Indies and Bangladesh. Do you think you would have an added advantage when the tri-series comes along?
I think the way cricket’s gone recently, everything’s on tv nowadays and you only have to do a little bit of homework to see what the strengths and weaknesses are so it pretty much comes back to how you’re gonna play on the day. I don’t think there’s many surprises left in the game. I think if you look at Rashid Khan, everyone’s watched him for three or four years, and a lot of people have seen him close up. I think you’ve just got to perform day in, day out.
The likes of yourself, William Porterfield, Ed Joyce and Trent Johnston have represented Ireland with distinction. What will it be like for the youngsters to be involved in the changing of guard?
That’s a good question, that’s what we are expecting to see, we want people to come and perform and score centuries and put their name (forward). Things will be changing in the next couple of years, maybe there would be a couple of retirements recently, people would come in and fill their boots. If it’s not going to be the guys who were on the fringes in the last couple of years then it’s going to be the younger generation, 18-, 19-, 20-year olds. I think with the Test status, and the organisation growing it also brings pressures with it so performances have to be at a certain level all the time. I think that’s the biggest challenge for the youngsters coming through.