Dev Tyagi ∙ Aug 17 2022, 8:00 AM

The trailblazer of Ireland opts for retirement when he could've gone on


Years from now, when anyone will look back at just how far Ireland have come, one would remember the band of charismatic triers who enabled the team to become doers.

Doers who didn’t just make it to the ODI World Cup in 2011, but stunned a team like England and would later, embark on many a meaningful mission such as contesting India in Tests. 

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One would remember the grace of William Porterfield. One would extend a regard to two gentle giants behind their fast bowling cauldron; Tim Murtagh and Boyd Rankin.

One will certainly pause to appreciate the captivating talent of Niall O’Brien, whose innings behind the mike now offers the same poise and intrigue as one saw with the bat. 

But will that be all?

You just won’t be able to appreciate just how far have Ireland traversed having once been little other than banal Associates without stopping by at an important juncture in their cricketing journey.

He’s been the pathfinder and the pathbreaker. The one whose career paved a mighty fine way for Ireland all these years given his excellence with both bat and ball.

There’ll never be another like Kevin O’Brien. 

Much like his batting, where a six suddenly struck the meanest of bowlers, Kevin O’Brien struck August 16, 2022, Shiv Chanderpaul’s birthday, with a sudden blow.

Though this was a double whammy in that as Kevin O’Brien announced his retirement, not only have Ireland experienced a sudden vacuum but the game, in general, appears poor.

Imagine a T20 international with a sub-par score on both sides.

For as long as Kevin O’Brien remained at the wicket, and his stay was for sixteen long years, he was quite like a super over in a Twenty-20. 

The thrill, the excitement, the carnage extolled upon bowlers unsuspecting the attack they were up against; Kevin O’Brien made batting look easy and beautiful at the same time.

While most of us will likely hold his stunning century in the 2011 World Cup encounter against England as his finest moment, the celebrated Irish all-rounder also proved his mettle in the longer format.

In the 2018 Test at Malahide, a first for Ireland, the only man who ever gave the hosts a chance to demolish Pakistan was Kevin O’Brien.

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Following his valuable 40-run contribution to Ireland’s miserable first inning tally of 130, the right hander tackled an Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, and a Haris Sohail-led attack to dart a debut Test century.

His 118 off 217 deliveries was an understudy in patience and poise, virtues one didn’t quite associate with the batter who had already forged his reputation as a white-ball disruptor.

His has been a career that presided over lean patches as well as fiery comebacks, volatile explosion against bowlers as also smart judgment as an alert fielder.

For as long as Kevin O’Brien remained at the middle - and he stayed for as long as 153 ODI’s and 110 T20I’s - Ireland were never out of a contest.

The smiling bowler-basher bullied Hong Kong back in 2019. On October 7, to be precise, he registered what one could call one of T20 international cricket’s most under appreciated moments, one that should ideally have been given the same extensive coverage as given to junk writing that fills soulless blog spaces about the vices of cricketers and their vanities.

One of Dublin’s greatest living exports to cricket took just 10.2 overs to go berserk against Hong Kong scoring 124 priceless runs.

A majority of his sixes, and he fired seven on that unforgettable day (Oman Pentangular T20I series), went beyond 90 meters into the stands at the Al Amerat.

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But that being said, this happy-go-lucky customer who played the game the way it should be played; with a sense of resilience yet humility- could have stayed a touch longer.

Maybe he could have found a way to talk to selectors explaining them about the massive occasion that already meant so much to so many; Ireland participating in the forthcoming T20I World cup. 

After all, wasn’t he gearing up for the big occasion, having left the run column a touch dry in the 2021 edition of the premier cricketing fiesta?

Not that anyone including serving captain Balbirnie or the enterprising Delany were able to deliver something incredible to accelerate Ireland’s campaign.

Though, it ought to be said the perfect swansong to the lanky lad’s career would’ve been the fast-approaching World Cup in October.

But since when has the game functioned on the whims of even its most intrepid artists? This one however, exercised his cricket bat as some paintbrush with which he stroked Ireland’s mega journey.

Together with a Paul Stirling and often, up-and-coming names like Harry Tector, Kevin O’Brien became the official wrecker in chief to those who challenged Ireland’s might.

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Maybe it’s a touch sad to get used to the fact that the Irish selectors were looking elsewhere instead of persisting with Kevin O’Brien, who on current fitness standards, could have easily featured for 3 years.

But that’s how cricket functions; it ebbs and flows. 

And although the selectors are looking at yet more young talent, Kevin O’Brien, the man with a ton in every format, propelled Ireland to the path of progress.

It’ll likely be an ordeal for the fans of Kevin O’Brien who, instead of getting to see him in the fast-approaching world cup, will have to use the expression retired against his name.

That’s when by the mere looks of it and the ever-attacking instincts, one that plundered one bowler too many, Kevin O’Brien very much resembles a rail that doesn’t quite know where to stop.

However, this rail, which cruised at lightning speed has stopped though not before 250 international outings for Ireland.