Steve Tikolo retires March 20, 2011

Kenya's greatest cricketer

Steve Tikolo brought class to Kenya's batting line-up, and he often saved his best for the biggest stage in world cricket

An ODI tally of 3421 in 134 matches may not sound like much, but it's a huge deal considering the fact that these stats belong to a batsman from one of the Associate teams. When at the peak of his powers, Steve Tikolo was a classy batsman with talent that isn't reflected in a career average of 28.99. Over a 15-year career Tikolo played five World Cups, and scored an ODI half-century against all Test-playing teams except New Zealand and Pakistan.

Tikolo's first one-day international was in the 1996 World Cup, against India. Kenya were beaten comprehensively, but Tikolo was the one Kenyan batsman to make an impression, scoring a smooth and polished 65 when no other team-mate touched 30.

Five games later Tikolo showed his debut display was no fluke, creaming 96 off 95 balls against a Sri Lankan attack that included Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. As was the case so often in his career, this was a lone hand as well, with no one else from Kenya scoring even half as many runs. Tikolo finished that World Cup with an average of 39.20 and a strike rate of 80.99, and it was clear that Kenya had discovered a top-class batsman.

Playing for an Associate team reduced his chances of testing himself against the top teams, but he continued to impress on the big occasions whenever the opportunity came along: in the 1999 World Cup he again showed he belonged to a different class compared to the other Kenyan batsmen. Against England, Tikolo scored 71 out of a team total of 203, and he followed that with his second successive World Cup half-century against India.

The 2003 World Cup was slightly disappointing from a personal point of view even though Kenya reached the semi-final - Tikolo did get a half-century there, against India again - but in 2007 Tikolo made full use of limited opportunities, scoring 155 in three innings. The highlight was an outstanding 76 against England, in which Tikolo again played the lone hand - the second-highest score in the innings of 177 was 17.

Tikolo finished with a career average of 28.99, but that's only because the runs dried up almost completely in his last 17 matches, in which he averaged less than 14. Through most of his career he averaged more than 30, and he performed reasonably well against the top ten teams too.

Steve Tikolo's ODI career
  ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till April 2009 117 3213 31.19 76.40 3/ 23
May 2009 onwards 17 208 13.86 66.45 0/ 1
Career 134 3421 28.99 75.71 3/ 24
Against the top 10 teams 92 2397 27.23 73.95 2/18
Against the rest 42 1024 34.13 80.18 1/ 6

Among Associate batsmen, Tikolo is easily the highest run-getter, with almost 1000 separating him from the next-highest.

Highest run-getters in ODIs among batsmen from Associate teams
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Steve Tikolo 130 3362 29.49 75.90 3/ 24
Thomas Odoyo 129 2364 23.64 70.00 1/ 8
Kennedy Otieno 90 2016 23.44 56.61 2/ 12
Ashish Bagai 60 1961 38.45 65.82 2/ 16
Collins Obuya 92 1760 25.88 69.07 0/ 9

Tikolo had managed to bring his best to the table for the World Cups, but his farewell series didn't quite work out the way he would have wanted it to. In four previous World Cups, he had scored a couple of fifties in each, and averaged nearly 35 in those matches. This time, he didn't even manage an aggregate of 50 in the entire World Cup, scoring 44 runs in five innings, with a highest of 13. That's brought his overall World Cup numbers down quite considerably.

Tikolo in World Cups
Year Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
1996 6 196 39.20 80.99 0/ 2
1999 5 167 33.40 66.53 0/ 2
2003 9 206 22.88 57.22 0/ 2
2007 3 155 77.50 82.01 0/ 2
2011 5 44 8.80 51.16 0/ 0
All World Cups 28 768 29.53 68.08 0/ 8

Tikolo's contribution to the Kenyan team wasn't only through his batting, though. He also bowled very handy offspin, and finished with 93 ODI wickets at a very acceptable average of 32.95 and an economy rate of 4.73. Among bowlers from Associate teams, only Thomas Odoyo, with 137, has more ODI wickets.

Apart from his batting and bowling exploits, Tikolo also led Kenya to one of their finest moments in international cricket, when they reached the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup. With more quality players to support him, Tikolo's numbers, and his impact on Kenyan cricket, would have been even greater.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo