November 16, 2006

Kenya

Associates heading in opposite directions

Martin Williamson

Martin Williamson reviews the Kenya-Bermuda one-day series and looks at what the games mean for both sides

Although the three-match one-day series between Kenya and Bermuda hardly registered on world cricket's Richter scale, in the battle for supremacy among the game's second string it had greater significance. And with the World Cup less than four months away, it provided a much-needed fillip to the Kenyans but left Bermuda with many more questions than answers.

The 3-0 scoreline does not flatter Kenya who outbatted and outbowled Bermuda, and who certainly looked the far more professional and fitter side in the field

They came into the series under pressure to perform after some indifferent results. They also needed to start nailing down exactly who would be in their World Cup squad. By the time they wrapped up the series whitewash yesterday evening, the selectors should have had far more of an idea of who will be travelling to the Caribbean in March.

The form of the impressive young batsman Tanmay Mishra and the slow left-armer Hiren Varaiya were real highlights. There remain questions at the top of the order, but Malhar Patel did enough in his one outing to give him a real chance of securing the No. 3 slot with some solid performances in January's World Cricket League in Nairobi.

There is also a sneaking feeling that Kennedy Otieno, the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman who chose to play club cricket in Australia rather than this, may have overplayed his hand. He wasn't missed as much as perhaps he thought he might have been and he is now far from certain to be recalled.

It also seems that those who have chosen to live overseas - such as Hitesh Modi - or play hard to get - such as Ravi Shah - are also out of the reckoning. While both will be missed, the selectors are running out of time to experiment and pander to personal whims and they are to be applauded if they stick with what they have from here on in.

And what about Bermuda? Well, while Kenya scrape by on scraps, they have a massive $11 million investment to underpin their development. However, as lottery winners often discover, money does not buy happiness. The last few months have been dogged by rifts between players and the board, as well as discipline issues, and on the evidence of this series, not only have they not progressed, they might have even taken a step backwards.

The greatest worry for Gus Logie, their coach, is the lack of fitness. Bermuda are not the youngest side, but not are they are approaching the kind of geriatric feel that blighted the USA's participation in the 2004 Champions Trophy either. But several of their side are carrying excess baggage and, in the unforgiving world of one-day cricket, that matters. They also lacked the mental steel which is needed at the highest level.

Time for both sides is running out. But while the Kenyans appear to be getting their house in some kind of order just in time, Bermuda are struggling. They now travel to South Africa where they will face the Netherlands, one of the stronger Associates, and Canada, possibly the weakest side taking part in the World Cup. Unless they show a marked improvement on their Mombasa performances, more gloom awaits them.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by BERMY MAN on (November 17, 2006, 0:05 GMT)

These sentiments are felt by many in Bermuda and it is interesting that an outsider can make the same observations after only a short glance. This info is nothing new, however, the selectors continue to pick one of those unfit and overweight players in captain Clay Smith and see no problem with it. This is the mindset that needs to change if progress is to be made. The player's fitness levels in general remain poor but with little chance of them losing teams spots there is no incentive to shed the pounds. They are assured spots. The rising average age of the team is also of major concern particularly when most of the opposing Associates are maintaining high levels on the field whilst simultaneously lowering their average age. This will bode well for them in the future no doubt.

Selectors need to have the courage to pick a younger squad and eliminate the bad selection practices that assure too many guaranteed selection. It seems apparent that complacency has set in and players are content after having secured a contract which makes them the highest paid Associate.

Also, Administrators need to be held accountable if we are to avoid continuous gloom in the future. A lot of money thrown on a bunch of aging players may be the plan for the short term, however, what about after the World Cup? What then? Where do you go?

Posted by Stefan on (November 16, 2006, 22:52 GMT)

I find the lack of opportunity for Associate nations to face full members a bit revolting. I think if world cricket needs to develop, then the most obvious requisite is that more cricket needs to happen between the Davids and Goliaths.

How else would the smaller teams be able to enhance their skills and learn how to operate in a way required of then to become internationally competitive? Investment and training are parts of the answer yes, but only more upper echelon opportunities for the Associates will teach them how to tweak their formulas, adjust their tactics and most importantly, test the mettle of their players.

I'm not saying that we need to organise a five-Test rubber between Gibraltar and Australia at once! But something like a full New Zealand v Kenya tour, or even West Indies v USA should not seem as far fetched as it sounds.

Cricket developed in popularity because it is a game that provides stories, and cultivates legends. I swear to you, that long after the last utterances of the names of Alan Shearer and George Best have faded from our vocabulary, our sons will still be raising glasses to the likes of Michael Atherton and Ian Botham.

I think its time the Associates had some legends of their own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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