Niall O'Brien returns for Ireland
Niall O'Brien, the Ireland wicketkeeper-batsman, has become the first player to play international cricket despite participating in the Indian Cricket League's inaugural season in 2007-08. O'Brien played an Intercontinental Cup match for Ireland against United Arab Emirates from March 6 to 9.
While Full Member countries had banned players who joined the ICL, Cricket Ireland (CI), which is an Associate member of the ICC, ruled that O'Brien and fast bowler Boyd Rankin, who also joined the unofficial league, could play international cricket.
"I discussed this issue with both players and made them aware of some of CI's concerns with the ICL, based on the information we had at the time, ie. the event [being] unauthorised by the BCCI," Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of CI, told Cricinfo. "They assured me that their current commitment to ICL was just one season.
"Due to financial constraints, the players do not have [in fact, no Ireland player has] full-time contracts with CI, therefore there was no legal recourse even if we wanted to go down that route," Deutrom said, adding that both players agreed that an "important consideration" was that Ireland did not have any matches scheduled when they were in India.
However, O'Brien and Rankin maybe be a source of contention if and when Ireland play India in the future. "If any player has played in the ICL and is now playing for his country, it is unacceptable to the Indian board and it goes against the understanding taken by all the cricket boards," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told Cricinfo when asked about the ICL players turning out for Ireland.
Deutrom, however, elaborated on the financial situation of the players prior to them signing on with the ICL. "Since the players do not make much money from cricket, although both are county cricketers, it would have seemed unreasonable to have prevented them from taking part to maximise their earnings.
"Since CI was unable to pay World Cup [appearance] prize money to the squad for a number of months after the event due to financial constraints, it would have appeared further unreasonable to have prevented the players from taking part in the ICL especially when it did not clash with any cricket that Ireland was playing."
O'Brien, who represented the Delhi Jets in the ICL, made a match-winning 174 in Ireland's nine-wicket win over UAE in Abu Dhabi, while Rankin was not selected for the match due to an injury.
Ashok Ganguly is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo