Kenya look to stretch to four days
Cricket Kenya is hoping to launch a four-day national competition later this year providing that sponsors can be found to underwrite the costs of the event.
A Kenya Select side recently took part in Zimbabwe's first-class Logan Cup, drawing two and losing two of their four four-day matches. They finished the tour being defeated by a Zimbabwe A side. While the results were disappointing, what was clear was that many of the Kenyan players were not equipped to play the longer form of the game and good positions were too often squandered. For most, with the exception of the Intercontinental Cup, it was their first exposure to anything other than one-day matches.
"Four-day cricket is something which we are plainly not used to," Samir Inamdar, Cricket Kenya's chairman, told Cricinfo. "And if there is anything we need to turn our attention to at a national level it is the longer version of the game. We simply do not play this game at home and it is vital that we start to play it and play it regularly.
"It is heartening that Zimbabwe allowed us to participate in this tournament, if only to demonstrate our weakness in this form of cricket. I believe that the boys will have learned from this experience."
The main obstacles facing Cricket Kenya are funding and availability of players. Zimbabwe pay for the running of Logan Cup out of the US$11.5 million they receive from the ICC from the World Cup. Kenya only receive around US$215,000 which has to cover the salaries of the national players and coach, administration costs, and grassroots funding. There is nothing spare. That is why Inamdar hopes to get a sponsor in to cover the costs of transporting sides between Nairobi and Mombasa, as well as paying for accommodation and other expenses.
It will also be hard to persuade people to take time off work to play - cricket in Kenya is almost all played at weekends - but Inamdar said that if games were scheduled sensibly, probably in school holidays, then the bulk of players should be able to take part.
Although no format has been discussed, it seems likely that there would be four teams, which is the minimum needed to make the competition meaningful. Two would come from the traditional cricketing centre of Nairobi, one from the coast (Mombasa) and another from the other regions such as Rift Valley, bolstered, if needs be, from Nairobi. This is no different to Zimbabwe where many regional sides are in effect filled with players bussed in from Harare.
Given that Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket may well be stalled, it is possible that they might be lured to Kenya to join in the competition as Kenya did in the Logan Cup. That would give the tournament an added spark and both locals and the Zimbaweans would learn much from the experience.
If the board can get this competition up and running then it will give Kenya a significant advantage in the Intercontinental Cup and also in persuading Full Member countries than they can get meaningful cricket if they visit Kenya. All that's needed now is the sponsor ...
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa