It's Niall's livelihood
Kevin O'Brien insists he has never been tempted to put cash before his country — but he can understand why his brother did.
All-rounder Kevin, who has won a major global award for his epic performance in Ireland’s World Cup victory over England last March, had the chance to play in the lucrative Bangladesh Premier League this month but committed to his national side’s tour of Kenya instead.
Elder brother Niall, however, asked to be granted leave for part of the Kenyan tour and the Irish selectors responded by axing him for the entire winter and spring season.
Thirty-year-old Niall, Ireland’s most decorated wicketkeeper and the hero of his country’s historic first World Cup victory over Pakistan in 2007, was bought by Bangladeshi franchise Khulna Royal Bengal for E62,000.
That means the Dubliner will earn at least that sum for his stint in the Asian subcontinent — despite the fact he was only selected to make his debut yesterday, in Khulna’s sixth match, and did not get the chance to bat having been named at No 6 in a seven-wicket win over Dhaka Gladiators.
The Northamptonshire stalwart said his main reason for going to Khulna was to spread the Irish cricket gospel, but so far his non-selection has left him looking like a preacher without a bible.
Nonetheless, the fee he will command for three weeks’ work is more than Cricket Ireland can afford to pay full-time Ireland players such as his 27-year-old brother.
‘It was a tricky situation because of the clash of dates and Niall had a difficult decision to make,’ said Kevin O’Brien, who will be announced this morning as winner of ESPN Cricinfo's ‘Best One Day Batting’ award for 2011.
‘I can understand why Niall made the decision he did because this is his livelihood, he has been a full-time professional for a number of years and he has always been looking to make the most of opportunities like this.
‘I was actually in the same position because I had the chance to go into the auction for the Bangladesh league as well, but I chose to stay with Ireland instead.
‘Cricket Ireland are my main employers and I thought I should put Ireland first.
‘But I don’t blame Niall for looking at it the way he did. He has been one of Irish cricket’s greatest servants and most committed players and I just hope we’ll be back playing together in the green by the time the summer comes around.’
Kevin O’Brien’s ESPN award caps a career-defining 12 months for the Railway Union man.
Having dyed his hair pink for Today FM’s ‘Shave or Dye’ campaign on March 2 last year, he left England’s established stars red-faced with his record-breaking, match-winning innings of 113 in Bangalore, India.
Ireland’s newest sporting hero was inundated with hundreds of media requests and thousands of messages of support from fans in cricket-mad India. And his profile has grown at home, too as the accolades continue to land on his doormat.
‘The main difference to my life now is actually the number of awards I’ve been getting and the number of dinners I’m invited to,’ he said from Mombasa, where Ireland lost their first one-day international against Kenya on Saturday after beating them in the four-day Intercontinental Cup opener.
‘So the dinners have taken over my social life to some extent, but I don’t mind.
‘I’m honoured to have won this award from ESPN Cricinfo because it’s great for Irish cricket and I’m pleased that people have sat up and taken notice of what we’ve achieved.
‘I don’t know if that day against England was a one-off but I hope not. I firmly believe that days like that will come around if you train hard and practise your skills, and hopefully we’ll have more famous wins like that in the next 12 months to two years.’