County news

O'Brien extends county love affair

Alex Winter

October 25, 2012

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

Niall O'Brien drives down the ground during his 71, Northamptonshire v Kent, County Championship, Northampton, April 15, 2011
Niall O'Brien has left Northamptonshire after six seasons © Getty Images
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Niall O'Brien, the Ireland wicketkeeper-batsman, has signed a three-year deal with Leicestershire, extending a career in county cricket that he sees as an effective way for Irish cricketers to gain the experience that is denied to them at international level by a lack of fixtures.

Ireland failed to qualify from Group B of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, playing only one full match, and currently only have four fixtures scheduled in the next 12 months. O'Brien praised county cricket for giving him the opportunity to develop. He has scored 5,317 first-class runs at an average of 35.91 and moves to Grace Road following three seasons at Kent and six years at Northamptonshire.

"Most of the Irish boys are playing full-time in England. We love playing county cricket; it's a very good standard and a good way to learn your trade," he told ESPNcricinfo. "We play three different competitions, which is very very helpful. But it's not for everyone. A few of the lads are fully contracted and based in Ireland.

"There's not a lot of cricket for Ireland and that's disappointing. We'd like to be playing cricket year round and to develop we need to be on the future tours programme playing against the best sides in different conditions. The odd games here and there are great occasions but they're few and far between. As a professional sportsman, it's difficult playing against big sides just once a year. I accept that teams have busy schedules but hopefully we can be involved on a more regular basis."

For the immediate future, O'Brien 30, joins Leicestershire with the chance to work with a young side, aided by the experience of captain, Matthew Hoggard, Claude Henderson and former West Indies batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan. "There's some good young players there and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and setting a good example," O'Brien said. "There is talent and I'm hoping to help it grow."

Leicestershire chief executive, Mike Siddall, said: "We are delighted that Niall is joining. With the untimely retirement of Will Jefferson the club needed an experienced opening batsman and Niall fits the bill perfectly. He is a top-class international cricketer who will bring his personality and knowledge to the dressing room and we are really pleased he has chosen Leicestershire."

The deal was being sounded out while O'Brien was in Sri Lanka, as Ireland went out of the World T20 with two inadequate batting displays: 123 for 9 against Australia and 129 for 6 against the eventual winners, West Indies.

"We were disappointed with how we played, especially against Australia," O'Brien said. "If we'd have played even five to ten percent better we would have got through the group ahead of West Indies. But we competed well and batted our allocation twice having been in poor positions - we didn't get bowled out cheaply like England, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe did."

To make the step from competing well to winning on the world stage, Ireland are seeking more international fixtures, with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe the most likely opponents. But O'Brien described a "reluctance" for those teams to commit to fixtures against Ireland - a subject fast bowler Trent Johnston was vocal about at the World T20.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (October 28, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

Irish Cricket is growing and I have no doubt they will be the next full member and deserve it. Dominating Associate level for God knows how long, beating full members like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, West Indies and England what more can you ask from an Associate? don't like to say this but the way they have progressed as an Associate nation is far more impressive than what Bangladesh or Zimbabwe have done. Its true Bangladesh and Zimbabwe cannot runaway from facing Ireland and have to eventually play them so that all of them are progressing and developing I mean why else have the top 6 associate nations have the status of playing ODIs and T20s against full member nations? they are already planning to have a first class system soon and get upto 50,000 people playing. The future of Ireland Cricket is clear to see. I'm a big fan of Rugby Union and love watching the Irish play they have passion and joy and in Cricket I can see the same thing.

Posted by jonesy.2 on (October 27, 2012, 15:33 GMT)

Front-Foot_lunge you dont know how lucky you are to have such a great competition in england. we in Australia envy you poms, you should not not be to hard on yourselves you hold the ashes and we have not beaten you is series since 2001. to beat us by 3 innings which you did is unheard of in Australia, you must be doing something right. i have seen your posts in the past and i think to myself gee this guy is far to honest for a pom. lets hope we do better in england in 2013 than we have done in the last decade. maybe we might meet when i am over and have a beer or 3. lol as your prime minister might say.

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (October 26, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

Ah yes, the Ireland..the elephant in the room when you talk about Bangladesh being awarded test status. I guess the ECB would block any improvement in Irelands domestic competition, preferring to see irish players ply their trade here. It makes sense to keep an eye on them. That way, if we have trouble finding 11 cricketers good enough for national selection in a population of 60 million across England and Wales, we can always scour Ireland and Scotland to complement the south african pool.

Posted by AzAb12754 on (October 25, 2012, 20:51 GMT)

@Monney: You're missing the point, Ireland too wanted to play these T20 matches for preparation they even admitted it. Also about the money Bangladesh receives they're a full member Ireland are not, that money is used to pay for things like Tests. Ireland don't play Tests or even ODIs so they obviously won't get that kind of funding from ICC.

Posted by   on (October 25, 2012, 19:42 GMT)

AzAb12754 - You still aren't listening. It was the Bangladesh board who wanted to play the T20's, Ireland want the four-day game. We couldn't fund to get it properly shown on tv. Nothing to do with the amount of fixtures.

If you bothered to read online, Bangladesh receive over 9million in support and funding from the ICC, Ireland receive 325,000. Of course we will struggle to finance a lot of the big series that full member sides like Bangladesh do. It simply not sustainable to try and run the same fixtures, the full members do with the limited resources a developing cricket country of the associate ranks receive.

I'm sure we would have loved to shown the games on tv but getting the games played was priority. No point in getting tv time without games to be shown on the tv first.

Once again Bangladesh wanted the T20's as practice for the WC, it wasn't down to funding on this part...

Posted by AzAb12754 on (October 25, 2012, 18:48 GMT)

@Jason Leavey: More matches? ha your players are already playing full time in the best domestic system in the world County Cricket and still cannot beat Bangladesh. Bangladesh first class is not really good and none of the Bangladesh players play at County Cricket like yours and still lose is not on :)

Posted by AzAb12754 on (October 25, 2012, 18:45 GMT)

@Jason Leavey: First of all that was T20 and we all know how close these matches are regardless of who the opponents and since you spoke of match 2 and 3 which was of course close why didn't you mention match 1 where Bangladesh destroyed Ireland by 70 runs resulting in a mismatch? Ireland Cricket cannot be compared to Bangladesh Cricket there's no match.

Posted by   on (October 25, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

You must be so proud of a 1 run and 2 wicket victory with 0 balls remaining against a associate had ICC given us more matches- more experience we would have won those last 2 matches. yeah i agree with you Colm hopefully leics will treat with his with respect other than his previous team,

Posted by AzAb12754 on (October 25, 2012, 15:27 GMT)

@Colm Mooney: It doesn't matter because Ireland couldn't still fund it as the costs to hold a 4 day match was too high. Bangladesh actually wanted to play a 4 day game against Ireland in preparation for the Zimbabwe test series but since that test series got postponed Bangladesh decided to not play a 4 day game for now so that's why seems logical to me. Bangladesh did Ireland a big favour unlike 'some' :)

Posted by   on (October 25, 2012, 14:55 GMT)

AzAb12754, it was the Bangladesh board who didn't want to play the four-day game, so gets your facts right first.

Very happy to see Niall get a place in Leics, hopefully they will make proper use of him. Unlike his last club who didn't like him playing International cricket, well just not for Ireland

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