2007 Review - Kenya December 23, 2007

Slow progress ... but progress nonetheless

Martin Williamson looks at how Kenya fared in 2007

Peter Ongondo celebrates his dismissal of Michael Vaughan during a disappointing World Cup © Getty Images
The improvement Kenya showed in 2006 continued in 2007 with good results in ODIs and Intercontinental Cup matches, although they were unable to close the gap between them and the Full member countries. On the big stages of the World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 Championship they froze and played poorly.

After several years of inactivity resulting from internal dysfunctionality, Kenya's players were rewarded with professional contracts and the repaid that faith by winning the inaugural World Cricket League on home soil, underpinning their claim to be the leading Associate. That success also gained them admission to the ICC World Twenty20 Championship and a cheque for $500,000. They also cleaned up in short ODI series at home to Bermuda and Canada . In the Intercontinental Cup they easily beat the same two opponents.

The main problem remained a lack of international exposure. A development side was invited to take part in Zimbabwe's Logan Cup but they struggled in difficult and alien conditions, highlighting a need for them to play more abroad on varying surfaces. However, 18 of their 23 international matches were on home soil and the only time they ventured abroad was for official ICC events. Until they can persuade Full Members to give them a leg up progress will be hard. There was less success at the lower levels, with the women's and Under-15 sides failing to impress in Africa Cricket Association tournaments and the Under-19 side failing to qualify for next year's U-19 World Cup.

At home the standard of the main league in Nairobi remained a cause for concern, as did a bitter dispute inside the Nairobi province which bore all the hallmarks of the earlier row involving the KCA - an old guard using every trick in the book to cling to power. But cricket Kenya, which signed a TV deal and secured a team sponsor, moved in to sort out the Nairobi mess and also to establish a national elite league.

New man on the block
Hiren Varaiya, not exactly new but only 22 and given that good slow bowlers are worth their weight in gold, he is a godsend. Economical in one-day games and a wicket-taker in first-class matches. He too would benefit from overseas experience and on occasion his captain seems unwilling to bowl him ahead of less able seamers.

Fading star
Wicketkeeper-batsman Kennedy Otieno departed in a huff twice in a short time, the second occasion when he was left out of the World Cup squad after failing to return from a club commitment in Australia. A year or two back his absence would have been a blow, but he was not really missed and the selectors sent out a clear message that prima donnas would no longer be tolerated.

High point
In September Thomas Odoyo was named the inaugural Associate Player of the Year at the annual ICC's annual beanfeast. In brought deserved accolades for Odoyo and boosted the profile of Kenya and all the Associates.

Low point
The dismal performance in the ICC World Twenty20 Championship undid so much of the team's progress and sent a bad message to the world, and the manner of the defeat against New Zealand prompted some serious post mortems at home.

What does 2008 hold?
Kenya have to continue to press for matches but the best they are likely to get are matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. A year of consolidation ahead of the vital 2009 World Cup Qualifier is about as good as they can get, and they need to appoint a high-calibre coach to replace the impression Roger Harper. At home grass-roots development and a successful national lead is the priority.

Kenya in 2007
Matches Won Lost Drawn/NR
ODIs 17 13 4 0
Twenty20 4 0 4 0
Intercontinental Cup 2 2 0 0

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo