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O'Brien stumped as prized bats missing

WORLD Cup hero Niall O'Brien's missing bats had still not been returned to him by the time the team trained in Chandigarh this morning.

The cricketer filed a police report in Bangalore yesterday when a kit bag containing six prize bats went missing.

The handmade bats, valued at €2,500 but priceless to Ireland's World Cup hopes, went AWOL somewhere between the stadium and O'Brien's door in a five-star hotel.

O'Brien made a statement at Cubbon Park police station yesterday on the way to the airport.

The Herald has seen a copy of the statement, which read: "I left my two cricket kit bags containing bats in dressing room, as requested to by International Cricket Council baggage master. I was asked to collect the bags on the 14th floor of the Hotel ITC Gardenia, where I found one kit bag, while the other one was missing."

The Irish team trained today in their new base near Chandigarh, but O'Brien had to borrow a bat from teammate Gary Wilson.

The bats went missing after a full-house World Cup game at Bangalore stadium.

An Indian policeman said: "Chances of theft are slim as tight security was provided to the players and their luggage."

Cricket Ireland yesterday played down the incident.

"We are of the belief that they are missing rather than stolen -- with so much luggage being transported all over India and Bangladesh, these things happen," a spokesman said.

Indian star Yuvraj Singh yesterday got in touch with O'Brien to offer assistance and bats.

O'Brien said he was grateful for "a wonderful gesture".

The Dublin-born left-hander has his bats handmade at the Gray Nicolls factory in Sussex.

"You can't just go into a shop and pick one up," he said. "They measure me every year to ensure everything is perfect for me."

He said he was confident the company would be able to get new bats to him in time for Friday's vital game against the West Indies.

"It seems they have a couple made up which I hope they can out to me in time. They also have a factory here in India so they can fax out the blueprints."