Kenyan cricket at the crossroads
In May Samir Inamdar took over as the new chairman of the Kenya Cricket Association, inheriting an organisation with crippling debts, a crumbling infrastructure and a poor reputation. Martin Williamson caught up with him in London just after the ICC's annual meeting.
When I came to London I had a lot of misgivings about what I had heard. We all took it upon ourselves to think it was a reprisal against the previous regime. But my meetings with Ehsan Mani [the ICC president] and Malcolm Speed [the chief executive] have led to a degree of reassurance that Kenya has not been stripped of its one-day status. In fact, five other nations are joining us and the ODI table will consist of 16 nations instead of the 11 it used to be. In that process we will get fixtures, which is the important point, not only among those five, but the pressure will now be on the major nations to play us just to get easy points. That is critical as it will encourage them to play us.
What kind of reception did you get at the meeting?
You have no idea how much people were looking forward to a new administration. There was much relief everywhere and there was very positive feedback from every member nation I spoke to, particularly the full member nations. Every single president I spoke to offered his help and support and said that I should get in touch with them if we needed any help.
Will that support mean that the national side can start playing cricket again?
The next six months look like they are pretty busy. We need to tie up a lot of loose ends. One major feature is that Bangladesh has invited Zimbabwe and Kenya to play in a triangular series and that will be extremely important as it will effectively set a benchmark as to where we stand in world cricket. It presents an incredible opportunity for Kenyan cricket.
The previous KCA regime repeatedly clashed with leading players, resulting in a well-publicised strike last year. Are your relations with the players any better?
The most important thing the players are concerned about are their arrears and the second most important are central contracts. We had a meeting just before I flew to London where I made it clear we will do all we can to ensure the arrears are paid as soon as possible, and that once the financial situation is sorted, we can then sit down and work out whether we can raise national sponsorship money to pay for their central contracts. But in the meantime, there is no money available and that has been made very plain to them.
A number of the stars are nearing the end of their careers. What are the prospects once they have gone?
We are looking forward to the World Cup in 2007. Yes, the team is aging, but they still have a little bit of steam left in them. In the interim, I would not be surprised if the selectors ensure there are some new people on the horizon who will come into the side ahead of 2007. I have little doubt that you will see three or four new faces.
The finances of the KCA were reported to be a shambles. How will you tackle that?
Well, we do need to find a way out of the mess. One of the most critical issues I will be facing is to decide where we go with the KCA. We estimate the liabilities of the association to be in the region of US$300,000. Either we sit there and firefight creditors for some time or we get on with cricket administration. The ICC will support us, even if we need a loan, but that will be set against our future proceeds. The issue for the government to decide is whether the KCA is a solvent organisation. If it isn't there are certain measures we can take to wind it up. I will be seeking their guidance.
The KCA hasn't had a sponsor for more than two years. Have the fresh elections brought potential investors out of the woodwork?
The reason sponsors have not been forthcoming is well documented...they were not interested in the KCA and the manner in which it was run. What they are now saying is that they are interested in getting involved in cricket but need to be sure that the new administration has credibility. Clearly, they do not want to put money into an insolvent, badly-run organisation. But there is a marked interest in sponsors coming forward.
Kenya has never had a proper national structure. That will take a couple of years to get going and is it a realistic aim?
Within the next one or two years is the right timeframe. To get a national competition going you need teams to be able to travel, and that can only be funded by development money being distributed to the provinces. What has never been done - and this is one of my key objectives - is to be able to run a national competition at all levels - Under-15, Under-17, Under-19 - as well as tournaments between clubs.
You are a Mombasa man but Kenyan cricket has traditionally been centred on Nairobi. Will that cause you any problems?
Not at all. Nairobi is twice as large as Mombasa and we know if it is a situation where the two provinces have to play cricket together, they will do so. We have never had interprovinvcial tournaments and we hope to promote the development of cricket across Kenya rather than just in Nairobi.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo