Curtis Campher admits that he’s still used to playing in the relentless audacity of T20 cricket, but one day this weekend he will be one of the first on the Irish roster for the opening game of the T20 World Cup against the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi. Monday.
A South African with an Irish passport – his grandmother was a nurse in Londonderry – did not play an A-List T20 game until he debuted for the Irish Wolves in his home country in February last year. His 13th match and only his fourth international match will be at the World Cup.
“I’ve played a lot of T20 matches in club cricket and U-17, U-19 level but nothing higher than in South Africa,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph. “It’s fast and definitely out of my comfort zone, but it’s really nice to challenge myself.
“I’m still getting used to it but other players are helping me. Still, test cricket is the pinnacle for me and one-day international players are the closest to it.”
Campher missed Ireland’s last Test match by exactly 12 months, but despite being only 22, there is still plenty of time to fulfill his ambition.
But his debut in ODI was one to remember. Despite losing to world champion England in the biosafety bubble of the Southampton Rose Bowl last year, no one has scored more in their first two hits for Ireland when Campher came in first with 59 and followed up with 68 in the second game – so far.
The all-rounder, affiliated with the YMCA club in Dublin, took five rooks in this three-game series against England, culminating in his famous eight-wicket victories against world champions.
So, unsurprisingly, the cool head on the young shoulders was unaffected as we looked forward to the first World Cup. And it suggests an incredible truth.
“Since I arrived, Honey (Irish captain Andrew Balbirnie) has helped me with everything. Crazy, my first time hitting midfield with him yesterday in my game against Papua New Guinea, he was probably the only one on the whole team that didn’t hit with me!”
He still won’t count on official records because his warm-up game isn’t an official T20 international, but he has confirmed his unbeaten 42 hits are in good shape, and while Paul Stirling will leave a spot when he returns on Monday, his rise to the T20 side undoubtedly strengthens Ireland’s shot.
It was a missing piece of the Irish puzzle in its shortest format for too long. Mainly due to the pandemic, Ireland did not play T20I between March 2020 and July 2021 and Campher missed the first three games this year due to injury – a recurring theme in the first 14 months of his international career.
“I missed most of the inter-pro season and a few international games, it was really frustrating. It’s good to go out and play again and I’m just enjoying my cricket. Runs and wickets help but at the end of the day I’m happy to contribute there,” he said.
Campher admits that the revised World Cup draw did not do Ireland any favors, bidding them with the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and a fit Namibia team, but remains optimistic.
“We are in a tougher group and all sides are playing really good cricket. But this is the current state of international cricket, if you don’t come that day you will lose and we saw that against UAE (when they lost the series 2-1 last week). There are no easy matches but in our A-game. “We’re confident we can beat anyone if we stand up and shoot,” he said.
Ireland’s last game was against Bangladesh this morning, it started at 7 BST and as Campher said: “It’s going to be a tough match but if we can turn them down it will give us a lot of confidence going into the tournament.”