O'Brien and crew ready to reignite

 

Looking at Kevin O’Brien address a packed press conference at the Chinnaswamy Stadium at lunchtime on Friday, it was hard to imagine what he had gone through in the previous 40 hours.

The Railway Union player announced himself to the world on the same ground last Wednesday night, with his record-breaking century setting his side on the way to a three-wicket victory over England on a momentous night for the Irish game.

A whirlwind day of media engagements followed, with Irish, Indian and world media looking to have a word with the man with the pink and blonde hair.

The Indian media were keen to find out if his life had changed and whether his feet will be able to hit the ground in time for today’s Group B game against India in front of a sell-out crowd of 40,000?

“It hasn’t changed much, to be honest, there’s been some messages of support, well over 100 I’d say,” said O’Brien, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday.

“It’s obviously great to have and very pleasing that back home the Irish cricketing public have gone mad. It’s great to hear and great to see all the stories, but personally, it hasn’t changed that much. I’m still focused on this tournament, starting with India.”

If the perception of the team has changed on the outside, one of Wednesday’s other heroes, John Mooney, was keen to point out the players see the Indian clash as just another game, and one they expect to perform well in.

“No disrespect, but we have our own expectations and what other people expect of us doesn’t really come into our camp. We’re not trying to live up to anything other than the pressure we put on ourselves and not from anyone outside our team group,” remarked Mooney, who scored the winning runs on Wednesday and also took four wickets.

Indian’s batsmen have been in outstanding form in their two games to date, scoring over 700 runs in the victory over Bangladesh and the thrilling tie against England in Bangalore last Sunday.

On the flipside, their bowling attack has hardly hit the form required to back up India’s standing as tournament favourites and the home side are contemplating including a fifth bowler at the expense of a batsman.

Kevin O’Brien believes that although the Indian attack has yet to come to the party, they remain a classy unit.

“I’ve seen the likes of Zaheer Khan bowl a lot and Munaf Patel and, obviously, Harbhajan (Singh). They’re all really good bowlers, they might just be having a bad couple of weeks but that doesn’t make them a bad bowling attack,” he remarked.

Of course it’s the strength of their batting that has made them favourites and O’Brien expressed his admiration for the Indian line-up and, in particular, opener Virender Sehwag, who is expected to play despite a niggling rib injury.

“The Indian batting line-up is a fantastic one. If it’s not the best batting line-up in the World Cup, I don’t know what is. They’ve obviously got strength all the way down with openers Sachin (Tendulkar) and Sehwag. You’ve also got power hitters like MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan coming in at the end so they’re all going to be dangerous.”

O’Brien’s performance on Wednesday has rightly taken all the headlines but coach Phil Simmons will be looking for an improved display in the field after a somewhat lethargic effort on Wednesday.

A better return from the top four batsmen will also be key, with the likes of Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien yet to deliver the quantity of runs they are capable of. They’ll all be required if Ireland want to keep their World Cup campaign on its incredible upward curve.

Ireland all-rounder Andre Botha is expected to miss the game with the groin strain he picked up in the warm-up before the England game, with Simmons set to choose between Andrew White and Gary Wilson, who replaced him for the game with England.