Kenya July 11, 2010

Kenya stare into the abyss

After their performances over the last week in the Netherlands, where they finished rock bottom, Kenya's players ought to slink back into Nairobi with their tails between their legs and beg Cricket Kenya to give them a contract

After their performances over the last week in the Netherlands, where they finished rock bottom, Kenya's players ought to slink back into Nairobi with their tails between their legs and beg Cricket Kenya to give them a contract. Instead, it is likely they will return home and arrogantly resume their demands for an even bigger share of a small pot.

Kenya were the only fully-professional team in the Netherlands. Actually, they were professional only in the sense they got paid. Their performances with both bat and ball were dismal and they finished the ICC World Cricket League exactly where they deserved to be.

There is a depressing and overwhelming feeling Kenyan cricket may have reached its zenith at the 2003 World Cup and the last few years have not been so much a period of transition as the start of a possibly terminal decline.

Public awareness of the game is low, few bother to watch even the bigger games, the club network is old and creaking, and the game only survives to any degree thanks to increasing ICC handouts and the hard work of a small group of passionate enthusiasts. The development network is not sufficient to produce the number of players to allow Kenya to compete with leading Associates, let alone the bigger fish.

Kenya can no longer afford the luxury of paying mediocre players - and make no mistake and despite their bellyaching, it pays them well - who consistently fail to perform. If contracts are to remain they have to be far more weighted to performance and not seniority.

The money Cricket Kenya pours into the abject first team would be far better spent on an aggressive grass-roots strategy and attracting top coaches to help boost the youth groups. What's there now is simply not working. If it continues to pay its first-team squad then it ought to make them play abroad to get as much experience as possible.

The selectors also need to grab the bull by the horns and cut the remaining ties with the past. An even younger bunch could not have done any worse than the team in the Netherlands. And too many of the old guard seem embroiled in the world where money matters more than results and performances.

Maurice Ouma, who was at the forefront of the player rebellion on the eve of the trip, should be sacked and dropped as soon as the side gets back. His form is not good enough to make him safe, and Cricket Kenya cannot allow someone who works against the national interest to captain the side.

A final thought. Last week Kenya alternated their opening pairs as they unsuccessfully tried to find a partnership that worked. Any yet nobody thought to get in touch with one proven opener, Seren Waters, the 20-year-old international who had been playing daily for Durham University, who had more experience of European conditions than almost anyone else in the side, who scored a hundred at Lord's days before the start of the tournament, and who was available. If only he had been asked.

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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