Kenya unveil ambitious new domestic structure
Cricket Kenya has announced new 20 and 50-over domestic competitions aimed at bolstering the standard of cricket in the country. The inclusion of two Ugandan sides in the six-team set-up will also provide a valuable boost to their up-and-coming neighbours.
The gulf between the NPCA league, Kenya's premier competition, and the national side has been a worry for a long time. In 2009 an attempt was made to establish a four-team elite event in both three-day and limited-over formats, but it foundered because of a lack of finance and poor support from players.
The latest initiative will feature four Kenyan sides - two from Nairobi, one each from Coast and Rift Valley - as well as two Ugandan teams. Each side will play ten games over weekends, with a Twenty20 match on a Saturday followed a day later by a 50-over contest. The leading four teams in each event would then progress to play-offs and a final.
Nationally contracted players will be split between sides to ensure a fair balance between the competitors, and Tom Sears, Cricket Kenya's chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo there were also plans to bring in overseas players from the subcontinent. "I believe by bringing in players from abroad we have the best chance of our players improving their game," he said.
Original plans had been for all six sides to come from within Kenya, but Sears admitted that "the level of competition was such that we could offer not enough strength in depth to provide strong enough cricket". He added that as Africa's leading Associate, it was Kenya's responsibility to help the progress of Uganda. "They have good players," he said. "That's why we opted to give them a chance to take part."
It was also revealed that a media deal had been agreed with Supersport for them to cover the semi-finals and finals of each competition.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa