Irish cricketer Kevin O’Brien is famously known as a batsman with fastest World Cup century which he did against England in the 2011 showpiece in the Indian sub-continent. O’Brien reached triple figures of just 50 deliveries. Courtesy his swashbuckling century, Ireland chase down a mammoth target of 328 with five balls to spare as yet another giant killing piled up in the Irish folklore. O’Brien is also the first Test centurion for Ireland which he did against Pakistan.
O’Brien is now a familiar name to Nepali cricket as well after he feature in the Everest Premier League playing for Kathmandu Kings XI which made it to the tournament playoffs. O’Brien had a decent display in the EPL and was loved by Nepali fans for his allround cricketing skills. In a recent interview, Adarsha Dhakal talked to O’Brien about his first experience of playing in Nepali franchise league and his upcoming plans. Here are the Excerpts:
Q. What exactly is Kevin O’Brien busy with these days?
A. My wife gave birth to our second child, a baby boy, born on 4th January, so that is taking up most of my time nowadays. As well as that, I’m back training in the gym with the Irish national squad and also working on my skills in preparation to a busy few months away.
Q. Almost a year ago, you tweeted a photo from Nepal’s domestic cricket tournament and expressed interest to play in front of Nepali crowd. You fulfilled that interest through this season’s Everest Premier League. How do you sum up your first appearance in Nepali league?
A. I loved the competition. The EPL exceeded my expectations from the advertising of the competition and franchises to the marketing of the players. It had a real feel of a mini IPL and was great to be able to experience it first hand. I had heard great things of the crowds that turn up to games in Nepal and to see it up close was very exciting.
Q. You made quite a herd of fans during the EPL and signed autographs and posted for selfies with them. What exactly is the feeling when you realise that you have fans far away from home?
A. I have played a lot of cricket in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so I knew what to expect. The cricket community in these countries are cricket mad and it was the same in Nepal. It’s great to play in front of big crowds and have people chant your name. It makes the hair on your neck stand up.
Q. How did you find the Nepali cricket fans?
A. Loud and very passionate and friendly.
Q. What do you make out of your own performance for Kathamandu Kings XI in the Everest Premier League?
I was happy with my own performances during the EPL. It’s just a shame I didn’t finish the competition the way I wanted. It would have been nice to play in the final, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe next year!
Q. Where do you find the level of Nepali cricket following your recent experience in the country’s domestic league?
A. I think it is encouraging to see. The key now for Nepali cricket and the EPL franchises is to continue to grow the tournament and attract quality overseas players like what was there this year. The more exposure the local players get the better they will develop and in turn Nepali national team will improve.
Q. As a senior and experienced player, what suggestion would you like to give Nepali youngsters?
A. Work hard and use every day to improve. One thing I noticed from the tournament was the lack of a serious quick bowler and a lack of real power hitting from the batters! Those are two areas I would look to work on if I was a young Nepali domestic player.
Q. You have been with Irish cricket for quite a long time. How did it feel when Ireland were granted the Test status?
A. It was an historic day and something I thought would never happen, let alone in my playing career. It’s great to be able to call yourself a Test cricketer.
Q. The calendar for big teams are always packed with numerous fixtures throughout the year. Under these circumstances, how difficult is it going to be for Ireland to get Test fixtures against big teams?
A. It’s not difficult at all. We are now part of the FTP (Future Tours Programme) so Ireland know what Test matches, ODI and T20 games we have for the next 3/4 years.
Q. Is the domestic structure in Ireland strong enough that it can lay the foundation to make sure the Test status is retained in the next cycle?
Yes it is. The domestic structure is growing year on year in Ireland. It is starting to produce good young cricketers with potentials. But the biggest obstacle is the lack of games at the A team level. Hopefully that will be changed in coming years.
Q. For a rising country like Nepal, what does it need to do at it’s best to get Test status?
I think Nepal should focus on ODI cricket and T20 cricket for now. Cricket Ireland took about 10 years or more planning to achieve Test cricket so for now the white ball game is the best focus for Nepal.
Q. What are your plans for the coming days?
A. Preparation for my trip to Oman and India.
Q. If you are asked to reflect about one of the best moments for you in cricket history, what would it be and why?
A. Either my World Cup hundred or my Test hundred.
Q. Ireland were tagged giant killers upsetting some big teams in World Cups. Unfortunately, your team would not be there for the 2019 World Cup. What does it feel to miss out on such big occasion?
A. It is a shame to miss out on the World Cup, but we didn’t play well enough to deserve a place in the competition. We knew what we had to do in the qualifying tournament but were not good enough to do so.
Q. Finally, would you like to give any message to your Nepali fans?
A. Keep supporting cricket and hopefully I will see you soon!