Kevin O'Brien targets overseas deals
Kevin O'Brien is targeting a repeat of his Bangalore heroics when Ireland take on England in Dubin on Thursday, but already has one eye on next year's challenges which include the World Twenty20, in Sri Lanka, and hopes to secure further deals with overseas sides to further his reputation.
O'Brien, who has released a book about the World Cup called Six after Six, produced one of the highlights of the tournament when he slammed 113 off 63 balls to take his country to a famous victory in a huge run chase. He has already benefited from that success, signing a one-day deal with Gloucestershire and a three-year contract with the Sri Lanka Premier League (SPL), although the first season of that has been delayed, but O'Brien has his sights set higher including the IPL and a possible stint in New Zealand.
"Looking ahead, for me next year is a big year for Ireland in Twenty20 with the World Championship and I'm looking to play as much as I can in the next 12 months," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I'd signed a deal with the SPL and hopefully that will take place next year, but the big one is the IPL. I've registered for next year's tournament so hopefully someone will sign me up. I'd love to play in such a big tournament against the world's best players. I'm also trying to get into the New Zealand Twenty20. I've put my name in the hat so hopefully something will come from that."
With the overseas Twenty20 leagues currently filling up their rosters ahead of the new season, this one-day international against England, which is being broadcast on TV unlike the 2009 game in Belfast, has come at a good time for O'Brien to remind everyone of his potential. However, they are also important matches for Ireland who were one of main forces behind successfully lobbying the ICC to overturn their decision to limit the 2015 World Cup to 10 teams
"We have to keep performing as a team and improving as players," he said. "We are used to these games now, we've played a lot against the big nations now and we enjoy it. There will hopefully be six or seven thousand at Clontarf and we can pull off another victory."
Ireland will face a new-look England side with a number of first-choice players, including one-day captain Alastair Cook, having been rested following the Test series against India. It will enable to them to assess the potential of Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Scott Borthwick and Jonny Bairstow plus a number of other fringe players but does mean that the Irish public won't get a chance to watch Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad at first hand.
Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, has admitted it would have been pleasing to see England send a full-strength squad but is fully aware it is their prerogative what line-up they select.
"Of course, we would like to host more of the stars that have propelled England to No. 1 in the Test rankings, but obviously the role of the England selectors is to satisfy the priorities of the England set-up, not ours," Deutrom told ESPNcricinfo. "The RSA Challenge is an official ODI, and there are rankings points at stake, which means the match has context. Therefore, our guys will be highly motivated and, bearing in mind that this is more or less our 2011 World Cup squad, they will be drawing on recent history for confidence."
O'Brien also insisted that Ireland will not look at the England side any differently because they are without some household names. "We aren't too fussed, whatever team they send over they are playing for England," he said. "They are bringing over a young side, both in age and experience, but they are still a very good team full of promising players having good seasons in county cricket who are trying to prove their worth."
A couple of curious aspects to the match include Eoin Morgan, a former Ireland player, captaining England and that Boyd Rankin, the tall fast bowler, will be aiming to impress the visitors having been selected for England Lions last week.
"Eoin's been playing for England now two years so we've all come to terms that he's an integral part of the one-day team and has now moved into the Test team," O'Brien said. "I don't think it's going to be any different if he was just playing. Someone of Boyd's talent, and after the season he's had for Warwickshire, England will be looking at him. That's for Boyd to decide if he wants to play for England in the future. But this is a big game for Ireland this week."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo