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Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland & Middlesex Cricketer

Name: Andrew Balbirnie
Position: Ireland and Middlesex Cricketer, and Sports Coaching Student.

Andrew, can you tell us where your interest in Cricket began?
My Dad first got me interested in cricket.  I spent some of my childhood living inBuckinghamshire, and Dad used to bring me down to the park with a bat and ball, and it kicked off from then.

When you came to Ireland where did you start to play ?
I started to play in Pembroke Cricket Club.  It helped that we moved into a house on Wilfield Road, about 50 yards away from the ground.

Did you play other games at school?
I was a keen rugby player, which was my main sport in the winter.

You are currently studying in Cardiff. What are you studying and why did you choose Cardiff Met?
I am doing a degree in Sports Coaching, in fact sitting my finals this week.  I chose Cardiff Met because of the MCCU cricket scheme that they had in place that allowed me to study while still working on my game to a high level.  Also the attraction of studying abroad and experiencing a new city was a huge attraction and one which I have really loved.

How do you combine cricket and study successfully?
Of course it is very important to find the balance.  I found that when at cricket training that I focused on nothing but cricket and then when studying or doing coursework then my whole focus was on that.  Of course there were times where it was very difficult to balance them both but with the support of the University they helped me achieve my goals on and off the field.

What does a typical day entail for you at present?
At the moment because we are mid-season, often I would have to get up early and get my University work done, so I can then go out and play for the whole day before coming back and doing a bit more work in the evening.  Throughout the winter we had strict gym regimes to follow while also working on our cricket skills.  So often we would have three sessions a day plus whatever Uni work had to be done.

You have captained Ireland u19’s, what was you reaction when first selected Captain ?
Obviously it is a massive honor in any sport to be selected to captain your country, I was lucky in the sense that I had played with that group of players since I was 13, so I they were close friends of mine which made the job a lot easier.

In other sport over recent months there has been much discussion around captain’s roles and whether it distracts from concentrating on your own play – how did you manage both?
It’s the easiest job when things are going well for you personally and the team, but when things aren’t going well it really tests you, and there were times where my form was dipping and I tried to not let this affect me as other players needed support as well as me, so as hard as it was I made sure that I was still there to support my teammates.

How difficult is it for an Irish player to find a professional contract?
Not as difficult as it once might have been.  There are about 15 or 16 Irish players who are now contracted to English based teams.  Over the years English professional sides have had a great relationship with Irish players which has no doubt been down to the success of the Cricket Ireland team and structures they have in place.

You have now played for both Pembroke and Middlesex. As well as the differences what are the similarities? 
I suppose it is similar in the sense that you still need to go out there and perform to the best of your ability no matter what the team or who the opposition is.  Setting high standards in performance is very important for me and whenever I take the field I try to maintain these. However  there is a quite substantial difference between playing with Middlesex and playing with Pembroke, as Middlesex is a completely professional environment and performance is everything.

In your years playing cricket, if you could pick just one match that stands out, which one would it be?
It has to be getting my first cap for Ireland (ODI Ireland v Scotland 2010) Although I didn’t perform well on the day it was a massively proud moment for me, my family and all the people who had helped me to get to that position.

Irish cricket is on the up, what does that mean for you ?
It’s massive for me and all the younger players striving to play regular international cricket. The Cricket Ireland squad has set some incredibly high standards over the last number of years and it is important that the next generation maintain these levels.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Always treat people the way you would like them to treat you.

Who inspires you in both the sport world and outside?
My Parents are a huge inspiration.  When I was younger they never let me get ahead of myself and were the first ones to bring me down to earth if I had performed well.  They always encouraged me to go to University and complete a degree before I did anything else.

What are your other interests?
Big rugby fan.  And can’t go long without listening to music.

If I asked you to fast forward 5 years, where would you be then?
Playing regular cricket for Middlesex CCC and Ireland.

Would you offer any advice to other young ambitious cricketers?
Work hard and enjoy yourself.