June 18, 2010

Kenya

Back to the dark days

Martin Williamson

Kenyan cricket has experienced more than its fair share of setbacks in the past decade, but ever since Sharad Ghai and his ilk were removed from office in 2005, things have been slowly improving. Until today.

News that the side had refused at the 11th hour to travel to England for a short tour arranged by supporters in Lancashire was not only incredibly rude to the volunteers who had organised it, but also showed a complete lack of understanding for the realities of the wider world. Financially, it is estimated to have left Cricket Kenya $50,000 out of pocket; the damage to Kenya cricket is considerably higher.

Five years ago Kenya's reputation internationally was mud. It has slowly recovered and the players are better rewarded than they have ever been. Their salaries, low by international standards, nonetheless dwarf the average of their countrymen. They also get perks such as medical insurance.

If the decision to boycott the tour was surprising, when you look at who was involved the motives become clearer.

Not one of the four people 'representing' the players is close to the national side. Kennedy Otieno, who once retired in a fit of pique after being dropped, has not played for a year and was unlikely to ever again; Steve Tikolo, still a good player but well past his best, walked out on the national side earlier this year and then tried to dictate unacceptable terms for a return; and then Maurice Odumbe, a convicted match-fixer who while once a genuinely good cricketer brought shame on his country. The fourth - Isaiah Odhiambo - he has no playing pedigree at all at it is unclear why he is involved

Their motives appear utterly selfish and they are willing to use the national side to achieve their aims. In short, they appear to want to gain control of the game in the country even though they have no experience of doing so. Otieno and Tikolo have been at loggerheads with a board who unlike the old days refuse to play by their rules; Tikolo's brother was also replaced as CEO at the end of 2009 after money went missing.

And then there is Odumbe. The problem is inside Kenya he still has a reputation based on his on-pitch record. But to get a more accurate picture, read Justice Ahmed Ebrahim's conclusion after his match-fixing hearing in 2004. That he was involved in this will set alarm bells ringing within the ICC.

Kenya have underperformed for several years and the players are in no position to make unreasonable demands. In a world where Associates have to scrap for recognition and credibility, their indefensible actions will have caused considerable harm to the game inside the country.

Cricket Kenya must stand firm. The first thing it needs to do is fire Maurice Ouma as captain. By not backing the selectors - indeed, the 'representatives' have called for the head of the chief selector amid other scattergun attacks on the board - he has undermined his own position.

And then there are Tikolo, Odumbe and Otieno,. It is a shame that three superb careers have reached this point, but they ought to be sent packing. CK should refuse to deal with them as it is almost implausible they have got involved simply because they worry about a squad to which they do not belong.

Then the remainder of the players should be approached and invited to negotiate. Before anyone shouts foul, that is not manipulation. An employer has a right to speak to its employees, especially when it believes those employees are being misled.

If the individuals refuse then they should be sent on their way. It's not as if there are people queuing at the door to offer them lucrative overseas contracts. Nor have their collective on-field performances been so good as to render them irreplaceable.

To finally banish the ghosts of the past, CK has to be firm. The time for conciliation is over.

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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 collins mbatha on (June 21, 2010, 8:51 GMT)

It is a great shame it has come to this... Thank goodness that in Uganda, where we do not have such Board v Players rivalry, the game is being healthy developed across the spectrum - men, women and children. Cricket has to be the winner, whether some like it or no.

Posted by Exuma on (June 20, 2010, 14:42 GMT)

The Kenyan cricketers need to realize who is putting food on their table. I am sure they have differences with the administration, but which country dosen't. They are passing up a valuable experience not to play in England. Apart from the experience they are missing out of their salary and a chance to show care their talent and a chance to pick up some league contract to make more money. Don't go down the road of Zimbabwe and years later trying to pick up the pieces. KC administrators also need to be accountable to the players, with no cricket all of Kenya is loosing

Posted by colin macbeth on (June 19, 2010, 8:20 GMT)

What a sad situation - and a case of deja vu. When I think how bubbly the Kenyan squad was in Ireland this time last year, it is the greater pity. In Uganda we pray such visitations do not fall upon us. Our cricket, both men's and women's, is on the up and up and is being played enthusiastically, even by the 'Abagarusi', the old men, who take on an All Women's XI at Kyambogo Oval next weekend in what should be an extravaganza of panache! Fingers crossed for Kenya... but it's a sad business and one the new CEO, Tom Sears, will have to deal with pronto.

Posted by andruid on (June 19, 2010, 8:01 GMT)

Looks like some people have been bit by the 'big man' mentality. We appreciate what these guys did back in their day but surely they are not being fair on the people charged with carrying their legacy. Would Australia be where they are if Don Bradman, or Steve Waugh or even Shane Warne decided to use their legacies to hijack Cricket Australia's agenda? I think not. You guys fought your battles, don't use it as an excuse to make it harder for others to fight theirs

Posted by Tim Price on (June 18, 2010, 23:49 GMT)

It's such a shame because in the 2003 world cup they did so much better than what Bangledesh did in 1999, which lead to their elivation to Test Cricket, and it seemed as if they were ready, now you feel as if they at least 20 years away now and Ireland are definately closer and Afganistan have much more potential if stability can be brought to the country

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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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