Kenyan cricket June 1, 2011

A long overdue purge

Martin Williamson on why the sweeping changes being undertaken by Cricket Kenya have not come a moment too soon

Cricket Kenya has been forced into making some drastic changes in the aftermath of a World Cup campaign which was the culmination of a fairly wretched couple of years. Things would have been altered anyway, but the humiliation of the side was so complete that a decision seems to have been made to blow the old system apart rather than slowly steer it in a new direction.

The courage of the board in this regard should be acknowledged, even if there is a valid argument to be made that the changes are long overdue. The latest upheaval concerns something I have long argued has been at the root of many problems - the way players have been centrally contracted and then allowed to get away with substandard performances and an all-too-often unprofessional approach to the game.

For too long Kenyan cricket has tolerated players who have often seemed to regard playing as an inconvenience. By local standards, leading players have been very well rewarded, and yet have repeatedly failed to deliver, not only on the big stage but also a more than a few smaller ones as well.

When they decided to go on strike - egged on by mischievous former players and encouraged by other senior ones - on the eve of a tour of England in July last year, the die was cast. Kenyan cricket was humiliated and out of pocket, while the outside world looked in bewilderment at a supposedly professional cricketers behaving like greedy adolescents.

In any other walk of life, people with such a consistently dismal record in their jobs would be fired. But so complacent were many in the squad they considered themselves irreplaceable, and that feeling was fostered by a board who often seemed to allow them to get away with mediocrity or worse. The real concern was that youngsters coming into the side - and a look at the fringe players in the World Cup squad will show there are increasing numbers - would be tainted, assuming that such behaviour was normal.

[Changes] will mean a difficult year or two, but even that has to be preferable than the death by a thousand cuts everyone has been forced to witness since the 2003 World Cup success

Reports of issues in training have been doing the round for some time, and few close to Kenyan cricket were surprised when stories emerged of disharmony within the squad at the World Cup. Words like arrogant and cocky were privately used to describe the attitude of what should not really be described as big-name players. Only when the team took to the field, they failed to deliver. Repeatedly.

Cricket Kenya has now the resolve to sweep away the old and start again. It will mean a difficult year or two, but even that has to be preferable than the death by a thousand cuts everyone has been forced to witness since the 2003 World Cup success.

Under the new contractual system, players will be expected to act professionally and will be judged accordingly. Some will find that bewildering and unfair. Given what has happened in the past, they will find support among a compliant local media who are all too ready to use such individuals to support their open agenda of attacking Cricket Kenya at every turn.

The board needs to weather that storm and continue to build for the future. It's been eight years since Kenya's greatest hours. The world has moved on, and now it's Kenya's turn to so.

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