Zim vs Ire 2022 – Paul Stirling and Josh Little to miss Ireland T20Is against Zimbabwe for T20 leagues

Josh Little and Paul Stirling will miss Ireland’s T20I series in Zimbabwe next month in order to play in the SA20 and ILT20 respectively, in the latest example of franchise leagues’ growing impact on the primacy of bilateral international cricket.

Ireland’s tour to Zimbabwe starts with three T20Is from January 12-15, followed by three ODIs – which are not part of the Super League – from January 18-23, with all fixtures staged at the Harare Sports Club. Little and Stirling will miss a handful of early group games for Pretoria Capitals and Abu Dhabi Knight Riders respectively, but will return to their respective franchises straight after the ODI series.

Ireland have a busy schedule in 2023 which features spring tours to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, a home series against Bangladesh, a Test and three ODIs in England and the European qualifying tournament for the 2024 T20 World Cup, plus the possibility of the 2023 50-over World Cup in India if they qualify, either through the Super League or the global qualifiers.

Andrew White, Ireland’s national selector, said the volume of cricket meant they would have to develop “a broader pool of ‘international-ready players’ to meet the challenges ahead” and will use Little and Stirling’s involvement in overseas leagues as an opportunity to give fringe players a chance to impress.

“2023 will be the year when we return to playing all three formats,” White said. “However, with a T20 World Cup Qualifier in July and a possible 50-over Cricket World Cup in October – if we can qualify – the importance of this white-ball series is obvious. The volume of cricket next year demands that we will need a broader pool of ‘international-ready’ players to meet the challenges ahead, and the Zimbabwe tour will be the start of that process.

“While the squads selected reflect the new dynamism and positive philosophy that Heinrich [Malan, head coach] and his staff have been instilling in our white-ball squads, we have taken advantage of the decision to allow a couple of our players the opportunity to participate in franchise tournaments.”

As a result, Stephen Doheny looks set to make his full international debut after he was an unused squad member at the recent T20 World Cup in Australia, while bowling allrounder Tyrone Kane returns to the fold and could make his first appearance for Ireland since July 2019.

Little and Stirling’s absences have created space for Neil Rock, the young wicketkeeper-batter, and Ben White, the legspinner who played one game at the 2021 T20 World Cup, in the T20I squad. “Ben has benefited from spending time with spin-bowling coach Nathan Hauritz in the nets and is continuing to develop his legspin, and Neil will come into the squad in largely a batting capacity,” White said.

Curtis Campher is included in both squads despite holding a contract with Chattogram Challengers in the Bangladesh Premier League which, like the ILT20 and SA20, clashes directly with the tour. Simi Singh, the offspinning allrounder, has been left out of both squads, while Craig Young is sidelined with an injury suffered at the T20 World Cup and Conor Olphert is also absent through injury.

T20I squad: Andy Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Tyrone Kane, Barry McCarthy, Neil Rock, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White

ODI squad: Andy Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Graham Hume, Tyrone Kane, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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