During the 2011 World Cup, ICC joined forces with a charity for a campaign which encouraged children to read. As part of that they asked a player from each participating country to say what their favourite book was, and why.

I was tasked with finding someone from the Irish squad, and have to confess being alarmed just how many of them simply didn’t read books of any kind. Of those that did, Ed Joyce’s selection was the most interesting, choosing 1984 by George Orwell.

I’d loved Animal Farm by Orwell, and it came immediately to mind when the Ireland squad for next month’s T20 World Cup qualifiers in Oman was announced with no Kevin O’Brien in the ranks.

Like Boxer in Animal Farm the 37 year-old seems to have been sent to the cricketing equivalent of the knacker’s yard by the Irish selectors.

Now while Boxer had outlived his usefulness, the stats don’t show such a deterioration in KOB’s batting. In generally pretty dismal T20 times for Ireland, one of the success stories had been the opening partnership of Paul Stirling and O’Brien, with the pair proving a good combination. Ger Siggins recent tweet showed whatever metric of stats used, O’Brien was second to Stirling which makes his ditching at this critical juncture a little puzzling.

While we still await the outcome of the Adi Birrell/Portas review almost a month after it was presented to Cricket Ireland, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to know what is wrong with the side in T20 cricket. The bowling lacks variety and the middle and late order in particular struggle to hit boundaries – sixes especially.

In the gut wrenching loss to Namibia the Irish threw away a strong start with the bat as the middle order were rendered virtually strokeless on a sluggish track. Now in the same way as sometimes bowlers pay the price for poor batting displays, O’Brien is the fall guy for the team’s exit.

Perhaps an argument could have been made if they wanted something different at the top of the order in terms of a left-hander or similar to the elevation of Andy McBrine, trying a lower order batter – the ilk of Mark Adair who has rarely shown his capabilities with the bat in T20 cricket.

However they have opted to go with the captain Andy Balbirnie who has scored 28 runs in five innings as a T20 opener. It’s a captain’s prerogative to bat where he wants though, and after his struggles against Namibia, the Pembroke man obviously wants a change of scenery.

Is this the end of the line for O’Brien? Having retired from ODI cricket and now deemed surplus to requirements in the T20 format, he is highly unlikely to get an Ireland contract when they are announced shortly.

Will he get a farewell game? That could depend if the Irish finally end their self imposed Test exile. They are due to play Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in the coming months, and there are few batsmen better suited to the longer game than O’Brien who averages 51.6 with a century and a fifty in their three Tests. It would be a fitting finale for O’Brien to bow out with a home Test.

Of course, rumours of his death could be premature, and he doesn’t have far to look for inspiration. Former skipper William Porterfield, also 37, looked to have been out to pasture, but strong displays in the interpros saw him reprieved. Who is to say that similar displays won’t see O’Brien be back in favour once again, given that there aren’t that many to choose from in the Irish ranks.

While I think it was unwise to dispense with the proven experience of O’Brien ahead of a World Cup qualifier, there’s no doubt it’s a bold move, and a courageous one.

If, God forbid, Ireland don’t progress, then heads will roll.

With no Head Coach to take the fall, then the fingers will be pointed at the captain, the selectors, and the Performance Director.

There may even be a review..


The results of the players survey into the four Irish grounds and facilities makes for uncomfortable reading.

However, in terms of new knowledge, it tells us nothing that we didn’t really know already. The Irish players have been scathing of the quality of facilities and pitches across Ireland, describing all as being below, indeed well below, the standard required for international cricket.

From a NW perspective, it’s sad to see Bready so low in the players’ rankings, bottom in nearly every category.

Malahide fares best, followed by Stormont and Clontarf, but none come out with great references.

I will delve more into the survey, and also have a closer look at Ireland’s efforts to secure their own ground/stadium next week.