An Irishman who indulged in English-bashing

“I honestly have no regrets from the past. It’s the past, so I don’t dwell on it. I am only looking forward in my career and hope to become a better cricketer every year,” Kevin O’Brien tells Priyansh.

Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien is one of the very few players from Associate member countries who enjoys a special place in the history of the Cricket World Cup. On March 2, 2011 the all-rounder clobbered 113 off just 63 deliveries to lead his team to a shock three-wicket win over England in Bangalore.

Since then, O’Brien has attained much popularity in the cricketing world and has produced some good performances with the ball too. Sportstar interacted with the Irishman on his latest visit to India as an ambassador for Education Ireland.

Question: It was in India where you, arguably, achieved your greatest individual success, against England in the 2011 World Cup. Special memories from that day…

Answer: That was a great day for everyone involved in Irish cricket. I wasn’t really thinking much when I walked out to bat; I was more concerned about my knee which I hurt while fielding. Once I got into bat, I was as relaxed as I could be, and everything went well for me that day. I remember a lot from the game, injuring my knee whilst fielding, but I suppose what stands out most was the situation we were in when I came into bat. We were staring down the barrel and I just thought I’d have some fun.

You come from a family which has been involved in different sports for a long time. Tell us more about it. Also, was it a natural progression for you to be a sportsman?

I’m the youngest kid of six. Dad played and captained Ireland, and all my siblings played under-age international and interprovincial cricket and hockey. Ciara (sister) played international hockey for over 10 years and was capped 152 times. With Niall making his debut in 2001, I thought about cricket and following him into the side. I think between myself, Niall, Ciara and dad we have over 500 caps.

You also share a close association with Railway Union CC in Dublin, don’t you?

Yes, I have actually been there my whole life. It’s where my whole family has played cricket and hockey and I love going back and playing for them. It’s a very family-orientated club and it’s great to go back and be around friends and family who know me. In addition to cricket and hockey, we can play other sports there too like football, rugby, tennis etc.

You also run a cricket academy at the RUCC. Do you plan to become a full-time coach after retirement?

I set up the Kevin O’Brien cricket academy in 2011 because I wanted to give the children around my area a great standard of coaching and not just the basics. I use the latest technology to provide them advanced coaching. I would love to open a full-time operational academy but it’s not feasible whilst I’m playing. So I will have to do what I can until I retire.

Outside cricket, which other sports do you follow or play?

I love all sports, as I come from a sports-mad family. I played senior league hockey for 10 years up till very recently at the Railway Union Hockey Club and loved every minute of it. At one point I enjoyed playing hockey more than cricket, but that has changed now. I also love to play golf and enjoy getting out on the course on a free day, even when we are touring. I follow football and, in the last few years, rugby too. I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan and whenever I’m free, I go to watch my favourite rugby team Leinster play.

Sports aside, you are also a cooking enthusiast. Which cuisines are your favourites?

I love all food but my favourite cuisine would be Chinese or Thai. I was lucky enough to get a cooking lesson from the head chef, Amit Wadhawan, of the Oberoi Hotel in Bangalore. Through Amit I have learnt to make a great coconut prawn curry, so will cook that a lot from now on.

How does Kevin O’Brien see himself as a person?

I’m a pretty relaxed guy on and off the field. I love to be successful and want to win every game I play. I try not to get too hard on myself after a poor performance or a loss. I just need to realise why I wasn’t successful and improve for the next game.

And your relationship with Niall?

Niall and I are different people altogether. Obviously, we have some common interests and we want to see each other do as well as we can. But while I'm very much relaxed mostly, Niall is a bit more tensed up. But that is a good thing, as we can see things from a different perspective.

How do you see Irish cricket progressing?

Irish cricket is in a great place. The board has an ambitious plan for the national side to play Test cricket by 2020. We have come a long way forward from having only two professional cricketers, no board members and a single head coach in 2007. Now, we have 25 professional cricketers, a fully operational board, 20 full-time employees, a head coach, assistant, strength trainer, physio, and more sponsorship money coming in every year. There’s no reason why we can’t play Test cricket at the earliest.

You turn 29 in March. How long do you see yourself playing international cricket?

I am not thinking too much about that. I’ll only turn 29 in March. I have no reason to think of retirement just yet. I love playing international cricket and in the next six years or so, we could have another five World Cups (including the World T20). As long as I’m fit and enjoying playing and training, I’ll continue to do so.

Finally, any regrets from your career till now?

I honestly have no regrets from the past. It’s the past, so I don’t dwell on it. I am only looking forward in my career and hope to become a better cricketer every year.