Iain O'Brien is returning to Wellington in a bid to work his way back into the New Zealand cricket team.
Now 34, O'Brien dropped a bombshell 18 months ago when he announced at the peak of his powers that he was relocating to England to start a family and play county cricket.
But after the first year of a three-season deal with Middlesex, things went pear-shaped on the eligibility and injury front, prompting O'Brien to contact Cricket Wellington recently about a return.
After a series of exchanges Wellington have confirmed they will contract O'Brien for the 2011-12 season, with a view to him being back in the capital by October 1 and playing all three forms of the game under new coach Jamie Siddons.
O'Brien could not be reached for comment last night but Cricket Wellington's high-performance manager, Robbie Kerr, confirmed the development.
"It hasn't quite worked out for him over there and Iain floated the idea of coming back to me and we have chatted ever since, " Kerr said. "I'd be delighted to see him back. He has been a fantastic servant for Wellington cricket and you never get less than 100 per cent from Obber."
Kerr is confident O'Brien still has some quality overs left in him despite a bad run with leg injuries.
O'Brien's last recognised game was 11 months ago, for Middlesex against Sussex at Uxbridge, and he has not started the current English season.
"He has been battling fitness wise but is on the way back," Kerr said. "He wants to come back and play well enough to play at the next level, so I think he is pretty serious.
"He believes he can get some county play in before the end of the season so it sounds pretty promising. If he is coming back with international cricket on his mind then he must be pretty confident about his level of fitness."
O'Brien has been working on his leg issues – predominantly hamstring – with former New Zealand physiotherapist Kate Stalker, who is now based in England.
The last of O'Brien's 22 tests was against Pakistan in Napier in December 2009 and he has 73 wickets to his name at an average of 33.27.
His first-class record is even more impressive, with 322 wickets under the belt in 91 matches.
If fit, O'Brien will provide penetration and experience to a Wellington attack that was exposed on several occasions last summer. If he gets on a roll, O'Brien would have claims at a New Zealand test berth given Tim Southee is the only quick-bowling certainty these days. Chris Martin, Hamish Bennett, Kyle Mills, Daryl Tuffey and Brent Arnel would be his rivals.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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