Allrounder steps down from 50-over format but will continue in Tests and T20Is
O’Brien, 37, will carry on playing at Test and T20I level, but has chosen to bow out of the format in which he made his debut against England as a 22-year-old in 2006, in Ireland’s first full ODI. He went on to make 3618 runs from 153 ODIs, and claim 114 wickets, the most by any Ireland bowler. His 68 outfield catches is another national record, while he played 95 of his matches alongside his elder brother, Niall, who retired in 2018.
“After 15 years playing for Ireland, I feel now is the right time to step away and retire from ODI cricket,” O’Brien said. “It has been an honour and a privilege to represent my country 153 times. The memories I take from them will last a lifetime”.
Those memories include appearances at three World Cups, including the 2007 event in the Caribbean, the moment when Ireland truly made their mark on international cricket.
Replying to England’s imposing total of 327 for 8, Ireland had slumped to 106 for 4 when he arrived at the crease, which soon became 111 for 5. But he responded to the adversity with an outrageous counterattack, cracking 13 fours and six sixes, before falling in the penultimate over with 11 runs still needed. However, John Mooney kept his cool to seal the chase, with Johnston again unbeaten at the other end.
“That innings alone probably gave many of us the opportunity to become professional cricketers in Ireland,” Andrew Balbirnie, Irleland’s captain, said. “I think everyone within Irish cricket owes a huge amount to Kevin O’Brien for what he’s done for the sport in this country.
“We’re losing a big personality in the ODI squad, and a really good friend, but this is not the end of Kevin O’Brien and I look forward to seeing what he can do in the other two formats.”
O’Brien featured again for Ireland at the 2015 World Cup, but the team missed out on qualification in 2019, and his form in recent campaigns has slipped away. He made a highest score of 31 in 11 ODIs since the start of 2020, and has decided the time is right to cut back his commitments.
“This has not been an easy decision, but after ongoing consideration I don’t feel I can contribute to the ODI team as much as I have in the past,” he said. “The hunger and love for the ODI format is no longer the same as it was and it wouldn’t be fair to continue to play while no longer feeling at 100%.
“I’ve had some unbelievable moments with the team since 2006 – the three World Cups, the personal successes and spending time travelling and playing all over the world, but I will now shift my focus and remain fully committed to T20 cricket – with two World Cups in the next 18 months – and hoping to add to my three caps in Test cricket.”
Graham Ford, Ireland’s head coach, added: “Kevin has played an enormous role in the development of Irish cricket and has delivered regularly on the world stage – particularly in the ODI format.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with him as part of the ODI squad, and he has been a true role model for many teammates over the years.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Kevin in other formats, and while his decision to step away from ODI cricket is sad, he can do so in the knowledge that he leaves an indelible legacy on the ODI game in Ireland and around the world.”