December 4, 2012

Kenya

Janmohammed faces uphill battle to arrest slide

Martin Williamson

The election of Jackie Janmohammed as Cricket Kenya chairman comes at a time when Kenyan cricket is not only at its lowest ebb since the heady days of the 2003 World Cup but is seemingly only heading in one direction. She faces a tough battle to arrest that slide, let alone turn it round.

While the board's finances are sound - in stark contrast to when Samir Inamdar, who she replaces, took over from the discredited Kenyan Cricket Association in 2005 - the national team is a mess both on and off the field and the domestic structure in the country remains poor.

Janmohammed, a respected Nairobi lawyer, is no newcomer to Kenyan cricket and had links to the KCA, where she was for a time its legal advisor, which she will have to work hard to cast off. To that end it is important that some of the characters who were more heavily involved in the board at that time - and they have been spotted on the periphery in recent months - are not brought back into the fold either officially or unofficially.

She also faces a difficult time internationally. By the time Sharad Ghai and the KCA were removed from office in 2005, Kenya were close to being international pariahs, dogged by endless financial problems, player strikes and internal bickering. Inamdar's greatest achievement was to present the country as somewhere worth investing in, and so successful was he that he won a place on the full ICC board.

Janmohammed will find it nigh on impossible to achieve that kind of acceptance from a conservative cricketing establishment, but her real problems are far closer to home.

The general view internationally is that Kenya, less than a decade ago touted as the likely next Test country, are finished. Millions have been poured in and yet the game has not moved on - in fact, the national side is in freefall. Uganda are now seen as the next best hope in Africa, and internationally Kenya are barely mentioned any more.

On the pitch, a succession of coaches have come and gone, broken and frustrated by the intransigence of a core of players who think they are owed a living and yet whose professionalism on and off the field has been at best suspect. Kenya have for several years been the only Associate nation with professional cricketers and yet have achieved nothing.

The same goes for chief executives, who have arrived in hope and departed in frustration. The real sadness is that Tom Tikolo, a Kenyan cricketing legend who really could have made a difference, was forced to resign as CEO under a cloud. He is attempting a comeback but internationally will be regarded with doubt, and Janmohammed needs a board above suspicion.

If, as seems increasingly likely, Kenya fail to qualify for the next World Cup and lose their leading Associate status, then the money will dry up almost overnight. With that the cricketers will go back to being part-timers, and given the attitude of some of them when they were being paid to play, it's not hard to imagine what will happen when they are not.

And if the large handouts from the ICC much go, then much the development will disappear, so too the cash for higher-profile chief executives and coaching staff, and Kenya will be not so much back to square one as off the board altogether.

As part of the KCA, Janmohammed was involved at the top of Kenyan cricket in the glory days of 2003. Barring a dramatic turnaround, it seems likely she may be at the helm when the international dream finally dies.

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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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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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