Minister to approach ICC for recognition

KCA on the rack as clubs back Cricket Kenya

Martin Williamson

February 15, 2005

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Ramesh Bhallah: resigned as team manager and selector © Cricinfo
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Cricket Kenya, the new body created at the weekend by Ochillo Ayacko, the sports minister, came one step closer to assuming full control of Kenyan cricket after the country's two largest provincial organisations, the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) and Coast Cricket Association (CCA), voted overwhelmingly to back it in preference to the existing Kenyan Cricket Association.

At a meeting in Mombasa, the CCA's ten member clubs voted 8-0 to support CK, with two abstentions, while in Nairobi, 19 of the NPCA's affiliated clubs chose to do the same. Perhaps most tellingly, Ruaraka, always seen as a stronghold of the KCA, also backed the new organisation.

It is believed that Ayacko will contact the ICC on Wednesday morning and, armed with the support of the government and now almost all of Kenya's stakeholder clubs, request that CK and not the KCA be recognised as being the official representatives of Kenyan cricket. In the face of such overwhelming support, it is hard to see how the ICC can do anything but agree.

If the last few days had been bad for the KCA executive, then today things got even worse as another senior executive - Ramesh Bhallah, the team manager and a selector - resigned, citing (according to the KCA) "pressure of work and personal commitments". However, Cricinfo knows that he has been increasingly at odds with the executive and has sought to distance himself from the board in recent weeks.

Bhalla's departure leaves Sharad Ghai, the KCA's chairman, increasingly isolated. Of his once rock-solid support within the board, only a handful remain loyal, and in the face of such massive opposition, his position appears untenable. If the ICC agrees to the minister's request, the KCA and Ghai, with no money and few friends, could be rendered utterly irrelevant anyway.

Earlier, the KCA's selectors had been due to name the squad for the Intercontinental Cup tie against Namibia at Windhoek match this morning, but it soon became clear that some had deep reservations as to their authority to pick a side to represent the country against such a backdrop, and also with so many leading players either unavailable or on strike.

Officially, the naming of the squad was delayed to allow the availability of certain individuals to be confirmed, but Cricinfo understands that it is unlikely that any announcement will be made until Ayacko has spoken to the ICC.

Perhaps the most telling sign that change was on the way was that a number of the striking players, who have steadfastly refused to play while the KCA and Ghai were in charge, have resumed training. All have said that they will play for the new board for free.

"We are happy to resume training under the government and we'll be training here on a daily basis," Kennedy Otieno, the former vice-captain, told the East African Standard. "At the moment we have no coach but we believe the minister is working on something. But with or without a coach, we shall continue training. We all know what to do."

Ravi Shah, probably the best batsman outside Test cricket, was absent from that group, nor did he appear with the depleted KCA-sanctioned squad preparing under coach Mudassar Nazar. "I have played cricket and will continue playing despite whoever selects me," he said. "But at the moment I am not training because I have a knee injury."

Within days, Cricket Kenya is expected to name a full-strength squad to face Namibia for the Intercontinental Cup tie at Windhoek.

Meanwhile, at the KCA offices at Nairobi Gymkhana, two other officials - Harilal Shah, the vice-chairman, and Jasmeer Singh, the communications manager, were held for four hours by more than a dozen coaching staff who claimed they had not been paid. The KCA is widely believed to be bankrupt, and Cricinfo has evidence that it cannot meet even its most vital commitments.

Finally, on Wednesday morning a Mombasa court is due to start hearing a case brought jointly by the NPCA and CCA against the KCA over the board's constitution.

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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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