Kenyans left staring into World Cup abyss
Kenya's tour of India, designed to prepare the squad for the forthcoming World Cup, has only served to expose the deficiencies in a side who, barring a major turnaround, seem set for a wretched tournament.
All five matches against youthful Gujarat and Baroda sides were lost, echoing results when the Indian state teams played in Nairobi last year. In only one match did Kenya come remotely close to winning, and even then they were unable to defend a total of 293 for 6, losing to Gujarat by six wickets with more than three overs remaining.
The batsmen have coped fairly well with alien conditions. Seren Waters scored the only hundred of the tour, but almost all the other front-line batsmen did enough to suggest they will cope come the World Cup, although doing more than that may be beyond them. However, Alex Obanda and Thomas Odoyo were really out of touch, and more worryingly Steve Tikolo failed to dominate in any game. For so long the lynchpin of the side, there have to be worries that a lack of high-class cricket and age are both taking a toll on his game.
Collins Obuya made one good score, but in four other innings managed only 47 runs. If Tikolo is unable to hold together the innings, much will depend on him, and his form is another big concern.
The real headache for coach Eldine Baptiste is with the bowling. Peter Ongondo, who has been so vital with the new ball, only played twice but leaked runs, while too many others lacked enough control to really put pressure on what were little more than inexperienced, if talented, young state batsmen. While some of the figures may not appear too bad, they have to be read in the knowledge that Baroda and Gujarat's batsmen were rarely under pressure to score quick runs and so did not need to be overly attacking.
After back-to-back wins, Gurajat completed a 3-0 clean sweep in the final match between the sides. Kenya's batsmen finally posted a good score, a second-wicket stand of 178 between Waters (103) and Obuya (92) helping them to 293 for 6, but Gujarat's well-paced reply enabled them to ease home with 19 balls to spare.
Kenya then headed to Vadodara for two matches against Baroda. Both followed a similar pattern. In the first, Kenya were put in, most of their batsmen got starts without building a big innings, and their eventual score of 217 was not remotely enough as Baroda ambled to a five-wicket win with 20 balls in hand. In the second, Kenya again batted and scored 182, with Tanmay Mishra's 63 saving them from a much lower score. Early wickets gave the Kenyans brief hope but Baroda knuckled down and again meandered to a well-paced six-wicket win.
Kenya now head to Dubai for conditioning, while Baptiste will be left scratching his head and trying to work out how to avoid the World Cup becoming a nightmare for his side.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa