Wanted - Grassroots Development for Kenyan Cricket
The Kenyans once again made the Indians eat humble pie in Wednesday's match of the Summer Spice triangular series. This is the second occasion that the Kenyans have beaten the Indians, and they did it in style. The only excuse the Indians could possibly give was that they were complacent.
All said and done, the Kenyans still have a long way to go, but the authorities would do well if they can do something about developing the game in that country. This is where they could take a leaf out of Bangladesh's book.
The Kenyans are not really new to international cricket. They have seen what it is all about even during the early editions of the World Cup, playing as East Africa.
Any mention of Kenya conjures up visions of outstanding wildlife sanctuaries and their famous Tusker lagers. The Kenyan authorities have a lot of Indian expatriates in their ranks.
In fact, they have even engaged former Indian cricketers to coach their senior side over the years. Roger Binny, Chandrakant Pandit, and, most recently, Sandeep Patil, to name a few, have been there as coaches.
The local teams play with a lot of joie de vivre, as witnessed by us when we returned from South Africa in 1992. Though there is a lot of interest, the main problem for the Kenyans has been the lack of repeated exposure to competitive matches with good teams. It is only in the recent past that they have been playing against international teams.
At times, they have shown a lot of pluck and have subdued the most fancied teams. They beat West Indies in the 1996 World Cup defending a low total. What should be noted is that they have won defending totals and not by chasing targets. It is a clear indication that the Kenyan bowlers have the discipline and right attitude when they have runs on the board to defend.
It would not be far from the truth to say that their batsmen let their side down more often than not. They are dependent on mainly two or three batsmen to lead the charge. Unfortunately, the experienced players like Ravindu Shah and Steve Tikolo do not carry on to play long knocks after getting off to good starts. They look good when they are out in the middle but get themselves out after settling down. This is one aspect in which they have to be more disciplined, and the batsmen have to be told that there is no point in getting good twenties and thirties.
Though the bowlers can be disciplined, they lack the pace to trouble world-class batsmen repeatedly. One consistently impressive factor in Kenyan cricket is their fielding, as they showed against the Indians.
All said and done, the Kenyans still have a long way to go, but the authorities would do well if they can do something about developing the game in that country. This is where they could take a leaf out of Bangladesh's book. The Bangladesh Cricket Board has chalked out a very sound development programme that concentrates mainly on the junior level cricketers.
It would only be fair to mention that Bangladesh does get a lot of assistance, in every possible way, from the ACC. Still, the inclination to develop the game is present, even though they are aware that it may take quite a while before they achieve results.
The onus is on the Kenyan authorities to find ways and means to generate the necessary funds and improve the game from the grass-roots level, which is where the future lies. It is about time as well, because they are yet to get full ICC membership even though they have figured in international cricket since the Prudential Cup. This is something that definitely deserves serious consideration.