Kevin O'Brien, the iconic Ireland cricketer, has announced his retirement from international cricket, ending a 15-year career as his country's most capped player across formats. The highest point, without a doubt, remains his 63-ball 113 against England in the 2011 ODI World Cup match in Bengaluru, where he led Ireland to a three-wicket win in the last over.
"I have enjoyed every minute playing for Ireland, made many friends off the pitch and I have so many happy memories to remember from my time playing for the National side," O'Brien wrote on Twitter. "All of my proudest moments and favourite memories were playing in front of Irish fans whether in Ireland or overseas, so thank you for the incredible support over the years."
Overall, O'Brien turned out in three Tests [each one Ireland have played so far], 153 ODIs and 110 T20Is. He last played internationally in a T20I, against Namibia during the T20 World Cup qualifying round in UAE last year.
It was a poor year for him on the whole. He managed just 301 runs in 14 T20I innings in the 2021 calendar year, while batting as an opener throughout. Ireland didn't qualify for the Super 12s of the T20 World Cup, losing to Sri Lanka and Namibia during the qualifiers, and O'Brien got only 9, 5 and 25 in his three innings.
He wasn't considered for Ireland thereafter, something which he said played a role in his decision.
"I had hoped to finish my career at the T20 World Cup in Australia [in 2022] but having not been picked for the Irish squad since last year's World Cup, I feel that the selectors and management are looking elsewhere," O'Brien wrote.
"To represent your country more times than anyone else has, in any sport, is testament to his ability, his dedication and his will to win. I know I speak for teammates down the years, that we were always glad he was in our trench" Andrew White, chair of Cricket Ireland's national men's selectors
He had retired from ODIs last year.
"I was very lucky to play with not only one of Ireland's greatest sportspeople, but also a very good friend who was always there to support me from my first cap to when I became captain," Andy Balbirnie, Ireland's current captain, said in a statement. "Cricket in this country owes a lot to what Kev achieved on and off the field and has left the game in a better place. Everyone in the team wishes nothing but the best going forward for Kev in his coaching career."
O'Brien made his Ireland debut in an ODI against England in 2006, and was a regular in the format, playing his last game against Netherlands in 2021.
However, he never topped the high of that Bengaluru evening, when he cracked a century off 50 balls against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and others. That remains the fastest hundred in an ODI World Cup, besides being the quickest by an Ireland batter in the format. It meant that Ireland, who had been carted for 327 by England, hunted down the target in 49.1 overs. It was one of two matches Ireland won at the World Cup - the other was against Netherlands.
O'Brien played his part in another of Ireland's great moments in international cricket, when he scored 16* off 52 balls in a small chase as Ireland shocked Pakistan in Kingston during the 2007 World Cup. The win helped them qualify for the Super 8s of the tournament and knocked out Pakistan [who had also lost to hosts West Indies].
Andrew White, chair of Cricket Ireland's national men's selectors, noted, "It's hard to put into words the impact that Kevin has had on our game in Ireland. Through all the amazing and defining moments over the last 16 years he played an integral part and on plenty of occasions… the lead role!
"Getting us over the line with Trent [Johnston] in Jamaica in 2007 often gets overlooked in the list of his great moments, but as we know it paved the way. Much will be said about Bangalore and his Test Match hundred against Pakistan… and so it should - but again words will struggle to do it justice. They are etched in the history books forever. It was fitting that Kevin was part of the Ireland team that played in the Test Match at Lord's against England in 2019.
"To represent your country more times than anyone else has, in any sport, is testament to his ability, his dedication and his will to win. I know I speak for teammates down the years, that we were always glad he was in our trench, and I wish Kevin and his family every success moving forward."
His best year in T20s came in 2019, when he scored 729 runs at a strike rate of 155 across competitions. He was the second-highest run-getter in T20Is that year, too. The highlight of that was a career-best 124 off 62 deliveries against Hong Kong.
In Tests, O'Brien finished with an average of 51.60, having scored Ireland's only individual century in the format so far, 118 against Pakistan in 2018, their first Test.
O'Brien said he wanted to "continue to grow my own Coaching Academy here in Ireland", while looking for to coaching opportunities. "I also want to continue to gain coaching experience overseas and hopefully will have more opportunities with some international and professional sides in the near future," he said.
If he does become a coach, Irish cricket can expect good things going forward, as Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's high-performance director said: "I wish Kevin well in his coaching career - if he is even half as impactful in coaching as he was in playing, he will make a great success of the next chapter in his life."