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February 28, 2005
It is now six weeks since Ochilo Ayacko, Kenya's sports minister, decided enough was enough and suspended the Kenyan Cricket Association as the first step towards introducing a new body to truly and democratically represent the sport in the country.
The minister's actions appear to have been covertly backed by the ICC - he claims that he was "urged to take such independent lawful action as I deemed necessary so as to arrest what the ICC considered an unacceptable and indefensible state of affairs concerning the KCA and Kenya cricket generally." While the ICC officially distances itself from Ayacko's subsequent forming of an alternative body, Cricket Kenya, it is widely believed that all funding to the KCA has been suspended.
That the KCA remains legally in charge is down to the courts, who have proved the biggest crutch to the association in the past and are again doing so. Three ex parte injunctions have been granted to the KCA in the last six weeks, all before the same judge who has, rather surprisingly, not found time to hear legal applications from the minister. The judge's last ruling was particularly contentious and, as with the other injuctions, is in the process of being challenged.
The KCA has formally lost the support of almost all Kenya's clubs. In special meetings earlier this month, not one club affiliated to the Nairobi and Coast associations backed it, with all but four, which abstained, opting to throw in their lot with Cricket Kenya. The KCA's own domestic league and cup did not even start in 2004-05 as only a handful of clubs are thought to have entered, and even then some of those entries were subsequently challenged.
It's the same story with the players. The 14 who have been on strike since last October continue to refuse to have any dealings with the KCA, and Cricinfo has learned that others have now joined them, not on strike but in refusing to play under the KCA banner.
Even the government has turned on the association, with the cabinet backing the minister's strategy.
Financially, the KCA is a shambles. It has not had a sponsor for almost two years, although there are several said to be waiting on the sidelines and willing to back Cricket Kenya if it gets official ICC recognition. Without ICC monies, the KCA has no income stream and things are growing increasingly desperate. A leading coach was evicted from his flat last week after the KCA failed to pay his rent, and recently a group of disgruntled coaches held senior KCA officials hostage in the association offices until their backpay was handed over.
Aside from the strikers, who claim they are owed money from as long as two years ago, other players are also out of pocket and have even been asked to pay their own air fares to get to matches with no hope of reimbursement.
Last week, Nairobi Gymkhana, the leading club in the country - and the home to the country's main ground and also the KCA offices - decided to take the KCA to court over outstanding rent.
So why are the KCA executive still fighting? The board has suffered a string of resignations lately, with three after Christmas being followed by that of Ramesh Bhalla last week. Even the KCA's own selectors failed to name a side for the aborted Intercontinental Cup tie against Namibia after one of them said that, in his view, they no longer had the moral right to do so.
The official reason that continues to be used by the board is that they have the legal authority to run the game, as proved by the courts. While legal arguments might keep them in control, their moral authority has surely long since expired.
However, there are interesting developments behind the scenes, where some increasingly desperate maneuvering is taking place to try and allow senior officials an honourable exit. The thinking seems to be that longer they can hold on, the greater the desire to make concessions to remove them will become.
The net is, however, closing. The ICC has raised "deep concerns as to the management and governance of Kenyan cricket" and the minister has gone some way beyond that, claiming that he stepped in to end a cycle of "internal wrangles, corruption and misappropriation of funds." On Friday, the police seized bank records of the KCA as part of ongoing investigations.
Comments attributed to the ICC last week that it would take until June 2006 for a new body - ie Cricket Kenya - to be recognised were seized on by supporters of the KCA. But look at the ICC's position. It cannot back this new body until it is entirely certain that the old KCA is finished. To do so would leave it in an embarrassing situation were the KCA to survive - and despite it being backed into a corner, stranger things have happened in Kenya. And so the ICC has no choice but to sit on the sidelines. It seems unlikely , however, that it will continue to back a body which is unrepresentative, has little support, is broke, and continues to operate under such a cloud.
There are potential openings which would enable the ICC to act. One is that the constitutional review which is due any day now will not be delivered. The ICC put great store in this, but the man driving it inside Kenya, Sammy Obingo, the former KCA general manager, changed sides and is now firmly in the minister's camp. Without this review, there can be no independent elections (there have been none since 1997) and that could give the ICC an excuse to get involved. There are also the ongoing investigations inside Kenya into the board's management which might provide another opening.
The only certainties are that this whole affair will drag on for some time yet, and the longer it does, the greater the harm for the game inside Kenya.
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