The future looks grim

Kenyan cricket stares into the abyss

Martin Williamson argues Kenyan cricket is doomed unless it undergoes a major overhaul

Martin Williamson

July 11, 2010

Comments: 3 | Text size: A | A

Kenya celebrate a strike, Kenya v Scotland, ICC WCL Division 1, Rotterdam, July 7, 2010
Kenyan cricket has little to celebrate ... or look forward to © International Cricket Council
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After their performances over the last week in the Netherlands, where they finished rock bottom, Kenya's players ought to slink back into Nairobi with their tails between their legs and beg Cricket Kenya to give them a contract. Instead, it is likely they will return home and arrogantly resume their demands for an even bigger share of a small pot.

Kenya were the only fully-professional team in the Netherlands. Actually, they were professional only in the sense they got paid. Their performances with both bat and ball were dismal and they finished the ICC World Cricket League exactly where they deserved to be.

There is a depressing and overwhelming feeling Kenyan cricket may have reached its zenith at the 2003 World Cup and the last few years have not been so much a period of transition as the start of a possibly terminal decline.

Public awareness of the game is low, few bother to watch even the bigger games, the club network is old and creaking, and the game only survives to any degree thanks to increasing ICC handouts and the hard work of a small group of passionate enthusiasts. The development network is not sufficient to produce the number of players to allow Kenya to compete with leading Associates, let alone the bigger fish.

Kenya can no longer afford the luxury of paying mediocre players - and make no mistake and despite their bellyaching, it pays them well - who consistently fail to perform. If contracts are to remain they have to be far more weighted to performance and not seniority.

The money Cricket Kenya pours into the abject first team would be far better spent on an aggressive grass-roots strategy and attracting top coaches to help boost the youth groups. What's there now is simply not working. If it continues to pay its first-team squad then it ought to make them play abroad to get as much experience as possible.

The selectors also need to grab the bull by the horns and cut the remaining ties with the past. An even younger bunch could not have done any worse than the team in the Netherlands. And too many of the old guard seem embroiled in the world where money matters more than results and performances.

Maurice Ouma, who was at the forefront of the player rebellion on the eve of the trip, should be sacked and dropped as soon as the side gets back. His form is not good enough to make him safe, and Cricket Kenya cannot allow someone who works against the national interest to captain the side.

A final thought. Last week Kenya alternated their opening pairs as they unsuccessfully tried to find a partnership that worked. Any yet nobody thought to get in touch with one proven opener, Seren Waters, the 20-year-old international who had been playing daily for Durham University, who had more experience of European conditions than almost anyone else in the side, who scored a hundred at Lord's days before the start of the tournament, and who was available. If only he had been asked.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by 560162 on (July 15, 2010, 5:51 GMT)

If I may have a chance to comment again. I fully agree with Senghai that Kanbis Cricket Club - winners of the league for the past many year - have been overlooked when it comes to selection. That they are doing so well is because they have good players. But how will the selectors' know this if they don't take rounds of Sunday cricket matches? I remember in the good old days, seven selectors would visit each venue on Sunday to pick talents. It was so competitive that, for example, Kenya had as many as three to four contenders for each batting slot and couple of classy spiinners fighting for one slot. For the 1996 World Cup, the selectors's had named initial squad of 40. Today, there are 16 or so for a 14-man squad selection. With this sharp decline, the present adminstration has nothing to show or prove. They must resign or kicked out. Zoeb Tayebjee.

Posted by Senghani on (July 13, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

The last minute strike was a shameful act by the players, especially the captain...on what basis was the team selected? where did francis otieno come in the team after 3 or 4 years exile...asking for a salary raise when you have an average of 20 runs in domestics leagues does not justify the cause...i still remember if a player performs well in any of the first class match, they were destined to play for kenya for the next 3 years with just one performance on their belt. Wake up selection committee kenya cricket is ruled by kanbis sports club...who have been league champions for the past 10 years...don't we have any young deserving players in that team who can represent kenya, or is the team selection still done in the bars as it used to be in ghai's regime.

Posted by 560162 on (July 12, 2010, 10:44 GMT)

Martin...Greetings. I fully agree with your critical piece. However, you need to give stick to CK too whom you have been seen to protect for a long time. As for Serene waters, I believe he was not picked due to his Nationality though Waters would quality on residency basis. I am told the Selectors have decided to pick only Kenya Citizens in the National team. If that is true, the decision of selectors, I fully support. With way things are going, I think we should re-activate the East African Cricket Conference (EACC), from which Kenya pulled out in 1980 to go on its own. Our present squad would surlely be competitive against Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. Uganda would beat Kenya hands down. Finally, to Kenya Captain and his gang, going on strike and blackmailing CK at the eleventh hour is a shameful act. Shame on you guys.

zoeb tayebjee

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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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