Cricket Kenya pushes ahead with elite league
Cricket Kenya chief executive Tom Sears has told ESPNcricinfo that plans are progressing to introduce a new national tournament in the country with the aim of improving the domestic structure and helping bridge the current gulf between the local and international game.
At present, the Nairobi Provincial Cricket League is the country's main competition, but standards are widely regarded as being poor and not conducive to bringing on young players. An attempt by CK to start a provincial event in 2009 failed for a variety of reasons, but Sears believes now is the time to try again.
"We are looking at basing it around a club structure primarily in Nairobi. The plan is to have eight teams in two pools of four. Six would be Nairobi-based clubs and we would probably invite the top six teams from the Nairobi league and a combination side from the Rift and a combination side from the Coast … but this is just a proposal at the moment and has yet to be ratified. If it is, we would put the Coast and the Rift in opposite pools to limit the amount of travelling and the top two in each pool would go through in semi-finals and a final."
"It'll create an opportunity for our national players, best club players, and also we have a good clutch of Under-19s and Under-17s and it will give them the chance to play in good, hard cricket because the standard of league cricket here is just not good enough at the moment."
Sears wants this to start in 2010, and unlike other attempts, this will spread right down through the age groups and into the vital area of schools cricket.
"It's about development all the way up, particularly at schools level. At the moment you can have a 12 year-old kid in Nairobi playing a completely different format of the game to a 12 year-old in Nakuru, Mombasa or anywhere else. So what we are trying to do is standardise the format of cricket we are playing at various age groups and have a regional competition that feeds into regional teams that compete in a national competition. This will create opportunities for kids to play locally and the best of those will be creamed off into regional teams at all the age groups up until 17.
"And then four regions, which will possibly be a Coast, Rift and two Nairobi sides who will compete in a national competition. We are making sure the kids can play and then we are looking at the best of those kids with a view to selecting those national sides. And once we have selected those national sides, making sure they are playing meaningful fixtures." Funding remains a major obstacle, but Sears says CK is "in discussions with broadcasters who have verbally committed to televising some of it" as well as speaking to a variety of commercial partners.
"We've got the ICCC, who provide the majority of our funding, onside and they are supportive of what we are trying to implement. If the ICC stipulate that this is a kind of structure they want to have in place, it adds a lot of weight to it. If we can't do all of it, certainly the senior men's league and some more structured junior competitions and that is what we have budgeted for."
Another issue historically has been the reluctance of clubs to agree to anything which dilutes their stranglehold on domestic cricket. "The provinces have their own leagues and place a lot of importance on them and that is fair enough," Sears said. "But any board member who sits on the board of a governing body has to look at the good of the game nationally as opposed to their own locality. I am sure there will be some interesting discussions but we are looking to implement something from the middle of the year onwards."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa