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

Short-term view taken by Kenya's players

For a few dollars more ...

Martin Williamson argues that Kenya's players need to think before they act

Martin Williamson

February 16, 2007

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The cancelled tri-series match was at the heart of the row © Eddie Norfolk
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The newspaper reports of players staging sit-ins at Cricket Kenya headquarters over disputed payments was a throwback to the dark days of the post-World Cup era of the Kenyan Cricket Association. Coming a week after the country's success in the World Cricket League, it was all the more disappointing.

One has some sympathy with the players. Under the old Sharad Ghai led regime, they had cause to strike on more than one occasion as bonuses and salaries were withheld and they were forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence. So bad had things got that promised bonuses which followed Kenya reaching the World Cup semi-final in March 2003 where only paid when the new board took charge more than two years later.

But times have changed. Money is still in short supply, but the board is now run in a more transparent way. A media deal has been signed with Nimbus which will generate at least $150,000 a year, and one of the prizes for winning the WCL was $250,000 from the ICC. Things are heading the right direction.

What Kenya really needs is a major sponsor. Most likely candidates were frightened off by the operations of the old KCA. They will take some sweet-talking and reassuring if they are to be lured back.

So the action by the players yesterday was at best ill advised, at worst utter stupidity. It sent a message to the wider community that nothing had changed, that Kenyan cricket was still a disorganised and dysfunctional shambles. The reality is quite different, but the damage has been done.

It also seems likely that a few players tried to be smart and used the media to try to force Cricket Kenya's hand. The story was leaked and embellished. What was written up as a sit-in was in reality a planned meeting to discuss the issue. In the end, the only losers are the players themselves. If a sponsor cannot be found then they will be the ones who directly lose out.

The way to approach this was for one of them to have a quiet word with senior officials of CK and to meet to chat. All very low key, all very discreet. It would not have worked with the old KCA, but it would now. But by dragging dirty laundry through the mud all that has happened is that old wounds have been reopened and the game has again been made to look a mess.

The players, who are finally being paid properly for their efforts, need to look at the bigger picture rather than squabble and scrap over a relatively tiny sum. They are set to receive $5000 in bonuses and yet they have risked far more for the sake of less than $100 a man.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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