Graham Ford has been speaking to coaches involved in the IPL to get a better idea about conditions in Sharjah, ahead of his Ireland side's winner-takes-all fixture against Namibia in the T20 World Cup.
Sharjah played host to a series of high-scoring games during the 2020 IPL, but the pitches were re-laid earlier this year and were generally slow and low after the resumption of the 2021 season, with average scoring rates down to 7.00 runs per over from 8.87 the year before.
Conditions were particularly difficult during the three matches played during the day in IPL 2021, with several players struggling to cope with the combination of heat and humidity: when Friday afternoon's game starts at 2 pm local time, forecasts suggest the temperature of 35 degrees celsius will 'feel like' 41 degrees. Ireland have been in the UAE for several weeks now, but the heat remains a significant challenge in contrast to the weather their players are used to at home.
"I've had a few good chats with some of the IPL coaches, but we'll keep that to ourselves for now," Ford said after Ireland's heavy defeat to Sri Lanka, which leaves them needing a result in Friday's fixture if they are to progress to the Super 12s. "Win or lose, we are gaining and we are learning, but quite obviously we're desperate to go through to the next phase of the tournament.
"You're always greedy as a coach: you want to win everything and you want to have a nice easy last fixture and say 'we're already through'. But realistically, we'd have taken it. We're still alive, we're still in the competition, and that's the most important thing."
Ireland played the evening game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night and will be unable to train as a whole squad ahead of Friday's fixture due to the time it will take to travel to Sharjah and the need for their bowlers in particular to recover. They have been frustrated by their schedule in the tournament, not least with the other first-round group staged in its entirety in the same venue, and Ford admitted it was "very difficult" to make improvements between games when playing three fixtures in the space of five days.
"There's no doubt it's very difficult because of the distances that you have to travel to get to training venues," he said. "Making improvements in terms of actually just getting in the nets and training is quite difficult [but] we can get to the ground a little bit earlier on matchdays and a couple of guys can sharpen their skills that way.
"A lot of the work needed to be done in the preparation phase, which we had a pretty good block through that period, and now it's not so much getting in the nets and trying to work on anything - it's more about what have we learnt from the matches that we've played and how can we improve tactically and just really try to look sharper and see where we can improve in the game situation."
Ireland arrived at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in time to see the final stages of Namibia's win against the Netherlands on Wednesday but are well aware of their ability as a side. They squeezed past them in the third-place play-off of the qualifying tournament in 2019, defending 135 in a low-scoring game, and the sides have played each other in a number of qualifiers over the last 15 years.
"We had a long bus journey then caught the end of the game and they did hit the ball extremely well at the end," Ford said. "We know that they've got some very dangerous players and David Wiese, who put on a show - we caught the end of that show. He's played for South Africa in the T20 World Cup before and I've seen him in South Africa and on the county circuit. He can be absolutely devastating, which he was today.
"They've got some dangerous players. They've got some very hard-working cricketers. Quite a few of them have learnt quite a lot of their cricket in South Africa and they pushed us close in the last game of the qualifiers. We know that they're going to be tough - if we're slightly off our best, we will struggle."