Hitesh Modi October 27, 2004

'We've gone ten steps backward since the World Cup'

Hitesh Modi speaks to Siddhartha Vaidyanathan about Kenya's controversies, their lack of matches, and the future of cricket in the country

Hitesh Modi has taken on the Kenyan captaincy in turbulent times. Steve Tikolo resigned after the Champions Trophy, while Maurice Odumbe has been banned for five years for his part in the match-fixing scandal. While in Mumbai for his marriage preparations, he spoke to Siddhartha Vaidyanathan about Kenya's controversies, their lack of matches, and the future of cricket in the country:

Hitesh Modi: 'What more do we have to do?' © Getty Images

You were recently appointed as Kenyan captain. What does the future hold?
It's a tough task with the senior players not there. Any new team is going to take time to reach where we reached. But I have a feeling that a few senior players might come back, probably Thomas [Odoyo] and Steve [Tikolo]. But all that depends on whether the association accepts them back and whether they are still on good terms. But it would be nice to have them back. In the new team, none of the players have played international cricket, so it's very difficult.

What is the latest situation on the players' strike?
I don't know what the latest is, but when I left the issue was not yet resolved. I've been told that the issue has been settled in terms of the players' dues. When I left, two weeks ago, it was still uncertain. I don't know the latest developments.

Steve Tikolo recently spoke about Kenya's lack of international match practice
Before the Champions Trophy, we hadn't played an international match for 18 months. You can't expect us to perform at that level if you have such a big break. All we are asking is for more games. I don't think the ICC is doing enough. We've reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. How much further do they expect us to go? People may still call it a fluke but we created history. We beat some good teams and if New Zealand had come [to Nairobi], we might have upset them as well. We nearly beat India in the Super Six game. We were playing really well.

I can't make a living out of cricket. And I can't see the situation improving in the near future

But did that change anything?
We all thought things would change after that. But instead we have gone ten steps back. We don't have a sponsor, we're on 50% pay-cuts, we've got no matches ... so where is the motivation? Imagine if Bangladesh or Zimbabwe had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. It would have been totally different for them. We have done it. But nothing's happened. And it affected us in the Champions Trophy. Even a great player like Sachin [Tendulkar] would take time to adjust after being out for 18 months. It's a long, long time.

How do you think the ICC can rectify that?
They can acknowledge that we did well and speak to the boards about including us in one-day tournaments. We are not even looking for money, we just want more exposure. If there is a tournament in Bangladesh, then they can try to accommodate us there. But nothing has been happening. We are really hurt. Other captains realise that. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sourav Ganguly said the same thing during the Champions Trophy. And they also openly said that we are much better than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. We all know it and we have proved it also. What more do you want? They main problem is financial. If we come in to the Test fold, then the chunk of the money that the big countries earn will be divided. But the ICC has a role to play in promoting cricket.

What about the administrative side?
We have a new chairman in Sharad Ghai, who has always been in controversies before. He has taken a bold step by saying that he would like to meet the people concerned - like associations, clubs and people who are against the KCA - and have a joint meeting to try and find a way forward. At the moment, everybody is going in different directions.

What about the financial aspects?
In terms of monetary gains, there isn't much because we don't have a team sponsor. Steve [Tikolo] has spoken about it in almost every interview. Tusker sponsored us before the World Cup. But they had to withdraw before the World Cup because Castle, their competitor, was one of the main sponsors. Then we had Directors Special for just one game - the semi-finals against India. I don't know if any Indian company will want to sponsor us. But there is not much mileage that they will get, because we hardly play any games. But it would be nice to have a long-term sponsor since there are youngsters coming through and we really need the resources.

'People may still call it a fluke but we created history' © Getty Images

What is the financial position for the player?
I can tell you with respect to the old contract system. The amount for those slotted in Category A was a gross sum of 88,000 shillings per month [about US$1000]. We've been on 50% pay-cuts since the World Cup last year. We've been told that we will be reimbursed whenever we get a sponsor. We haven't yet got a sponsor, so I cannot say they have gone back on their word. We are still waiting. I don't know the exact position of the ICC with regard to the finances, but they have told us not to use any money for paying the players because it's for development of the game.

What about the Maurice Odumbe issue?
I thought it was unfair that he got a five-year ban. There have been players who have admitted to have taken money but who have got away. And they are only saying he knew a bookie, but they have not pinpointed any game which was affected. But I haven't spoken to him since the incident.

Asif Karim once said that the victory over West Indies in the 1996 World Cup was the worst thing to happen to Kenyan cricket ...
I agree. We always thought that if we performed we would see changes. We've heard that from the ICC and the Kenyan board. And we did perform by reaching the semi-final of the most competitive tournament. And we got nothing in return. I can't make a living out of cricket. And I can't see the situation improving in the near future.