“It's about maintaining the team and getting some new guys in and some good performances going forward,” says Ireland batsman.
When Ireland walk out for their historic first Test against Pakistan on Friday 11 May, Ed Joyce will be 39 years and 231 days old.
If Joyce, who has been included in the 14-member squad, makes to the XI – and it is likely one of Ireland’s foremost batsmen will indeed do so – he will become one of the oldest Test debutants.
The veteran, who made his first-class debut back in 1997, has kept at it so far just for a chance to wear Test whites. With the dream close to being reality, he said it was still a “pinch me moment” for him.
“I’m in the 14. Hopefully I make the final XI. It'll be an incredible feeling,” he said in an interview to BBC. “I don't really have that long left playing. I’m 39 years old now so to finally get a Test match will be fantastic. I never thought I'd play a Test for Ireland, that's for sure.
“I played my first game a long time ago, 20 years ago, so to get to this point, where we’re on the verge of our first Test, is a great feeling, I can’t wait.”
Joyce won't be the first from his family to play a Test. His sister Isobel, the former captain of the women's team, played against Pakistan back in 2000, when Ireland Women used to play Tests. Joyce meanwhile moved to England to play county cricket and give himself a chance at breaking into the Test side. He qualified to play for England in 2005, and even made his one-day international debut against Ireland in 2006. However, he never featured in the five-day side.
Joyce insisted that the disappointment of not making the cut then was far in his past. “When I went over to play county cricket in England, playing for England was never the objective. It was just to have a bit of fun. And then obviously a career came along and playing for England came along, and being in squads for that. That ended in 2007 and I didn't play again,” he said.
“That was 11 years ago and Ireland were nowhere near the Test status that we have now. Even the historical wins against Pakistan [in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007] hadn’t happened. So to get to the point where there's a Test match on the horizon, it's a 'pinch me' moment.”
Few teams have found success early in their Test cricket journeys, and Joyce recognised that Ireland would be the “underdogs” against Pakistan, working hard to overcome the gulf as they climb a level up.
Yet, “a fairly grizzled team” will use all their county experience to take Ireland forward and set things up for a new generation, he said.
“It's an incredible achievement, but I think it's got to the point now where we need to push on and not just say we've had a good achievement getting to this point. It's about maintaining the team and getting some new guys in and some good performances going forward.”
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