Ireland news January 21, 2012

Ambitions split for O'Brien

Gerard Siggins

Niall O'Brien, the Ireland wicketkeeper, is on a collision course with Cricket Ireland over his selection for a lucrative Twenty20 league in Bangladesh.

O'Brien fetched US$80,000 from Khulna Royal Bengal in the Bangladesh Premier League auction. The tournament takes place from February 9-20 and clashes with Ireland's intercontinental cup games against Kenya. Ireland coach Phil Simmons wants O'Brien in Africa.

Ireland play Kenya from February 12-15 and again in two World Cup qualifiers on February 18 and 20. But Ireland's tour to Kenya could be in doubt because of security concerns. It is understood O'Brien wants to miss the four day game but is keen to play in the ODIs. He said yesterday that he had been advised not to comment but hoped the situation would be resolved.

"Nialler's passionate about Ireland," said one fellow international. "Anyone who has played with him can see that he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Money has nothing to do with it for him. He's just mad keen to develop as a player and thinks this could be a great opportunity to open some doors in Asia."

More than US$6m was spent in the auction and O'Brien's new team also includes West Indians Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Andre Russell, Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya and promising English player Jos Buttler. Each team can buy up to eight overseas players but at least one must be from an associate nation.

O'Brien was the only Irishman in the auction and the only associate with an original price tag of US$50,000. There are two players from Afghanistan and one each from Hong Kong, Netherlands, Denmark, Kenya, Canada and Namibia, all valued at US$30,000.

The six BPL teams will play ten games each in the tournament, the rights to which were bought by an Indian company last month for US$44m.