Irish all-rounder Kevin O’Brien is hopeful of getting a chance to play in the next edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 28-year-old, who holds the record for scoring the fastest hundred in World Cup history, was on a promotional visit here on Saturday.
O’Brien shot to stardom with a 50-ball hundred against England at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup. “It was a big honour for me. To break Matthew Hayden’s record and to win against England was special. It gave me the confidence that I can do well at the international level,” he said.
The hard-hitting middle-order batsman and handy seamer has featured in two of Ireland’s biggest wins, against Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and over England in the 2011 edition. “It’s truly special. In 2007, we didn’t expect to go past the group stage. The victory over Pakistan put us in the Super Eights. As for the England game, we were confident of chasing down 327. We knew it was a high-scoring ground.”
O’Brien said the game has gained in popularity in Ireland. “Our sponsor Royal Sunderland Insurance is doing a fantastic job. We no longer need to depend solely on county cricket. Cricket Ireland provides contract to 25 players and I am one of them. You can be at home under the guidance of national coach Phil Simmons and make a good living.
Our performances in the last two World Cups have boosted the popularity of the game. Prior to 2007, about 10,000 people were playing cricket and now it comes to around 25,000.”
O’Brien was not picked by any IPL franchisees last time and he is hoping that there is a change of mind next time. “The IPL is the best organised domestic tournament in the world. I was disappointed that I wasn’t signed by any of the franchisees last time around. Hopefully I will get a chance to play in the next edition of the tournament.”
He felt that with more exposure Ireland can put up a much better display. “We would love to play more matches. The table is too tight at the moment and with wins we can really push teams such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Next summer hopefully we will get to play 15 matches in total. Australia ‘A’ are touring Ireland in June and we have a couple of games lined up against Pakistan before the Champions Trophy.”
He said that Ireland hoped to gain Test status by 2020. “Cricket Ireland’s goal is to be a Test playing nation by 2020. There is no reason why we can’t do a good job at the Test level. If am around still, I would love to play in Ireland’s maiden Test.”
O’Brien, who runs the Kevin O’Brien Cricket Academy in Dublin, targets to play his best for the next 4-5 years and also to enhance the reputation of his academy.