Exclusive Interview with Iain O’Brien

Life throws many a challenge at all of us in everyday life and Iain O’Brien (OB), the now retired New Zealand international cricketer it was no different.

I caught up with Iain (pictured below) on Friday, to discuss life, moving to England, twitter, English weather and even cricket!!

GSB: Hi Iain, nice to speak with you. How are you today?

OB: Yeah I’m good thanks Derek.

GSB: How you finding the conditions in England at this time of the year?

OB: Well it’s my first winter in seven years so I’m enjoying it but it will start to wear thin soon.

GSB: If I could start by asking you for your all-time favourite cricketer?

OB: Glenn McGrath, for the obvious reasons.

GSB: Your favourite cricket ground then?

OB: My former home ground, the Basin Reserve (pictured below), Wellington.

GSB: And the best player you have played against?

OB: It is pretty difficult to go past Sachin Tendulkar. Especially when you can see his love for the game.

GSB: How did it feel to play test match cricket?

OB: Well, it’s the reason you play and it’s the dream but then it gets better when you make a job out of playing cricket. Then to fulfill the dream and make your ambition is what it is all about.

GSB: So do you see a future for test match cricket?

OB: Well for anyone who has watched test matches over the past two months, will see that it is as strong as ever. There have been phenomenal draws and wins, it’s the most interesting period of test cricket I’ve seen in my life-time.

GSB: Despite some high-profile retirements recently, namely Shane Bond, Andrew Flintoff and yourself?

OB: Thanks for including me with those two great names. That won’t affect it, as they retired due to injuries and I had my reasons too. If you can’t handle test cricket then you can’t play and we’ll still see them in the shorter versions of the game.

GSB: So what was your international high point?

OB: It has to be when I took 6/75 versus West Indies at Napier as it was my only 5 wicket haul in test cricket and everything happened for me in that innings.

GSB: And the lowest point?

OB: Been a few to be honest. But, probably in South Africa, in my first match back after being dropped from the squad. I was useless and it made me think long and hard after the second days play.

I wondered if this form would continue forever, but the next day I returned to form. Those demons are hard to deal with and it was a very tough moment for me.

GSB: Your first test victim was Matthew Hayden (pictured below), how did that feel?

OB: Pretty cool and I hate that word. Amazingly it happened in my 4th over in test cricket and it went to Nathan Astle at second slip, who took a good catch.

That gave me figures of 1/13 and having my parents and close friends in the crowd was very special. Though my figures for the rest of the match didn’t stay to that level.

GSB: You gained a reputation as a ‘go-to’ bowler for the New Zealand team, how did you find that?

OB: Yeah I am proud of that. When your not an out-and-out wicket taker you have to dry up an end and make life uncomfortable for the batsmen.

Bowling along side Daniel Vettori, who was the captain, he had confidence in me and my ability to adapt my role and do as required. I loved it in other words.

GSB: Have you learned to control the dissent?

OB: I don’t know where this has come from. I had one incident last summer, where I got caught behind after the ball had nicked my wicket but the bails hadn’t come off and was given out.

I was confused and not sure what had happened and I had a couple of cross messages but that was it. So I have to say I have only had a slap on the wrist really.

GSB: So international retirement, any regrets?

OB: No not at all. I’m very proud of my decision and it was about a life balance outside of cricket and time with my wife (Rosie is English and lives in Derbyshire, England).

It is sad in some ways, but I have no regrets and I am ready for the next phase of my life.

GSB: Not even when you watch live matches?

OB: I enjoy watching cricket, like the current South Africa versus England series but New Zealand haven’t played a test match since I retired.

I guess when they do, part of me will feel like I would when I’m injured or when I’ve been dropped but I will be supporting the guys. 

GSB: Missing New Zealand then?

OB: I have only been over here a week, so it’s alright at the moment, but, I do miss home and the folks. It will eat at me slightly, but it’s my decision and I stick by it.

GSB: So you’ve signed for Middlesex, happy with the move? Shame you didn’t move to my team, Yorkshire!

OB: Yorkshire enquired but I had already signed for Middlesex. Yeah I am happy with it. I still want to play and it is my job. Be nice to only be playing 3 hours from home too.

It’s a change of lifestyle and we’ve made some great signings. I’m looking forward to getting started as everything seems very professionally done and looks like exciting times ahead.

GSB: Looking forward to playing at the ‘home of cricket’ (Lord’s pictured below) regularly?

OB: Well I’ve been there as 12th man a couple of times, but only played once in a twenty20 match. It’s not the worst place in the world to play is it?

It wasn’t part of my decision, but it’s a nice ground and I wasn’t overly excited about it to begin with. But, people keep mentioning it and with everyday that passes and the closer I get to playing there, then the more exciting and edgy I get for it.

GSB: Angus Fraser had some very kind words to say about you when they signed you. Has that added any pressure?

OB: No not at all. It was a positive press release and I feel he has made a good signing. He was a similar bowler to me in his day and I’m hoping I can impact my attitude on the other bowlers in the squad.

“He is an into the wind bowler & I know the wind in Wellington is strong. I immediately knew Iain was a determined, wholehearted cricketer”

Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s Managing Director of Cricket

GSB: So with your recent international retirement, do you fancy a stint in the Indian Premier League (IPL)?

OB: If it came along it’d be great but it would also be a tough decision at this time. I’m here to live my life but agreeing to go to India for 6 weeks would be the opposite to my agreed decisions.

GSB: What would you have done if you hadn’t become a cricketer?

OB: Well I have a background in teaching Physical Education and have taught in earlier stints over here. I did some supply work too. So I would probably go back into that.

GSB: So do you see  a career in writing when you retire from cricket?

OB: Well I didn’t start my blog as an angle to get into it, even though it maybe received that way. It would be silly not to continue it and if it opens doors and opportunities continue to open up and I do a few things then so be it.

I want to go into coaching and specifically as a bowling coach, I enjoy spending my time with the other bowlers and feel I can help them mentally too.

GSB: So moving to this country and with New Zealand’s qualification for the football World Cup. Are you a football fan?

OB: Well I was at the match when we qualified for the World Cup finals. It was the most amazing sporting event I have ever been too and I was proud to have been there.

I am looking forward to the tournament and I have brought my ‘All Whites’ scarf with me, but, I must admit I am not a big football fan and I haven’t got a team as such and will have to take an interest now I am here.

GSB: Finally how have you embraced the twitter phenomenon?

OB: Well it is there for a reason and it is useful for people like me and you. It helps get our blogs read and it gives people the chance to talk to people in the limelight like me.

I respond to people’s questions and I am grateful to respond to them. It is another avenue for the media and will obviously become more prominent.

GSB: Thanks very much for your time today Iain and good luck in the coming months in England.

OB: You are welcome Derek, have a great weekend and speak with you soon.

Check out Iain’s blog at http://iainobrien.co.nz/ it’s a great insight into his cricketing life and he assures me he’ll be updating it soon.

He was a pleasure to talk too and made the interview extremely easy for me to conduct.  I am looking forward to seeing him perform in the coming County Championship season.

Cheers for reading.

Enjoy your weekend.

Gaffers

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