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Steve Tikolo

'Kenyan cricket at its lowest ebb'

Mismanagement, lack of competitive cricket and a poor structure are at the root of Kenyan cricket's current state, says Steve Tikolo

Interview by Brydon Coverdale

March 12, 2011

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Steve Tikolo celebrates his half-century, Kenya v Scotland, Kenya T20 Tri-Series, 6th match, Nairobi, February 4, 2010
Steve Tikolo: He's seen the best and worst of Kenyan cricket © Thota Sreenivas
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Steve Tikolo has played in five World Cups, has represented his country in 133 ODIs, more than half of them as captain, and has been part of Kenyan cricket's greatest moments. When he speaks about the state of the game in his country, he deserves to be heard. And his message is blunt.

"Over the years we've had our ups and downs," Tikolo says. "Right now I think Kenyan cricket is at its lowest ebb."

It's not a surprising sentiment, given the results Kenya have dished up in this World Cup. But how has it come to this? Tikolo was there in 1996 when Kenya, at their first World Cup, provided one of the most memorable upsets in history by beating a West Indies side boasting Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

He was there when they defeated India in 1998 and again in 2001. And of course, he was there for the 2003 World Cup, when they reached the semi-final, beating Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Canada along the way.

That was meant to be Kenya's breakthrough tournament and when it finished, Test status was a realistic aim. All that was needed was for a first-class competition to be set up in Kenya, and money funnelled to grassroots development to ensure that the next generation of cricketers had a chance to grow.

But Kenya's promise quickly disappeared in a mire of mismanagement. Eight years later there is still no first-class cricket in Kenya, only a one-day club competition, and that is no way to move forward.

"If you look at 2003, the ICC wanted Kenya to be the next Test team," Tikolo says. "They did help. They put in some money for development at the grassroots. But because of poor management in Kenyan cricket, all that went down the drain. People ate the money without showing anything for it. No development was done. That really annoyed the ICC and they sort of forgot about Kenya. It was Kenya's fault in terms of management that we didn't progress.

"The new [management] team that came in, they haven't had any money to work with. They have only been depending on the grants from the ICC that Associate countries get. We have not had a sponsor for the last seven or eight years. It has also been tough on them, in terms of managing the little grants they get from the ICC to look after the national team, do the grassroots development and management."

Things are slowly turning around, but it is no short-term process. Tikolo, 39, has seen the best and worst of Kenyan cricket, and while he is optimistic about the talent that is present in his country, he knows that getting those young players into a professional system is easier said than done.

 
 
"A club like Gymkhana, the board pays for us to train there. But if it's outside the training hours, I cannot go on my own and do my throwdowns. I will be chased away. They will simply say you're not a member, you're not allowed in here"
 

"The system we have at home is private clubs, members' clubs," Tikolo says. "Even the national team itself, we find it difficult to find a place to go and train. A club like Gymkhana, the board pays for us to train there. But if it's outside the training hours, I cannot go on my own and do my throwdowns.

"You cannot have that extra training, apart from the hours allocated for the national team. If I go there to do training on my own, I will be chased away. They will simply say you're not a member, you're not allowed in here. So we need to get a facility where the national team players can walk in at any time and practice."

If that sounds like pretty basic stuff, imagine what Tikolo's young team-mates would think if they visited Australia's Centre of Excellence. And when the gap is that vast, how will they feel when they take the field on Sunday against Australia? How will they cope with facing Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson, or bowling to Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson?

"There is definitely talent," Tikolo says. "All that needs to be done is to get them playing more competitive cricket, so that when they walk on to the park to come and face Brett Lee, they're not overawed by it, it's like something they do every other day. But right now, you walk on the field and you're facing Shaun Tait, who you've only seen on TV, and it becomes a bit too much for them to handle."

Most 39-year-olds wouldn't relish facing Tait either, but Tikolo has been around long enough to know what he should expect. The World Cup will be his last hurrah for Kenya, ending a 16-year international career, but he wants to stay involved with coaching in his country. If that means mentoring a side that has been axed from the World Cup - the ICC is planning a ten-team tournament next time - Tikolo would be disappointed.

"We need to get more games against tough opposition," he says. "That's the only way you improve. When you get beaten, you go back and sit down and find areas that you need to improve. If you keep on playing at the same level, you stagnate."

And after eight years of stagnation, Kenyan cricket needs to move forward. At least, from their lowest ebb, things can only improve

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by 1501tamim on (March 14, 2011, 19:47 GMT)

i agree wid darren o brien, i guess IRELAND should be given test status. Odrwise they wont be able to keep hold of the talents like O Brien Brothers, Dockrells or even porterfield from their suppressive big brother England. yes, i know, in ireland currently dere isnt any first class competition but, i believe dis can be done in a much quicker and effective manner than kenya. i feel for Steve Tikolo, just for da fighter he has been and his love for da cricket, but ICC couldnt have helped if dere is anarchy inside the house. sorry to see kenya has suddenly ran along the wrong road recently. So as da other african nation Zimbabwe. being a cricket fanatic i honestly dreamt of a cricketing world much bigger than what it is now. But ICC's decision to squeeze da world cup will definitely be a wrong turn. I guess, ICC needs to understand that sports unites the world and fifa world cup is the greatest example of it. remember DEVOR SUKER, CROATIA ... he is da only CROATIAN i know!

Posted by howizzat on (March 14, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

@Darren, it seems you havent read the whole story. I am not in favour of WC being played by only the top 8. I have said the 14 should be reduced to ten and Ireland is there among the 10. Accocrding to my plan Asso's are given enough room in the form of alternate World Cup where second teams of top 6 nations and first teams of the next 4, say, WI, NZ, BN and IRE are being drawn with the next 4. I also suggested a Plate WC where the the teams 7th to team 16th can participate. These will definitely make them more competitive to face the top. So its evens, I feel.

Posted by 560162 on (March 14, 2011, 12:03 GMT)

Steve Tikolo is past his prime. He was also dropped from the match against the Aussies. He would have been heard when he was on top. Look at his scores in the last three games. His allegations that Nairobi Gymkhana chases away the players are baseless. In fact, Cricket Kenya hires Nairobi Gymkhana for 5-6 hours daily. Cricketers are given all training facilities. So what is the fuss by Tikolo? Cricket Kenya do not have their own venue. They are only briefcase traders. Finally, Tikolo should thank Cricket Kenya to have given him opportunity, even at this age of 39, to play for Kenya in the WC. He is only venting his anger because he has lost eye to the ball, and is no more good for the National team. As for only 10 teams from the next WP, there's nothing wrong with this format, as long as ICC has something in the store for the assoiciate members.

Posted by delta20 on (March 14, 2011, 10:07 GMT)

It is sad to see a player of Steve Tikolo's calibre not getting enough recognition.. There could be arguments over what I write here but I would rate him above overhyped Yusuf pathan, Yuvraj singh, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Ashraful, Thilan samaraweera and many other players from test playing nations..

Posted by   on (March 14, 2011, 8:50 GMT)

@ Howizzit if the WORLD CUP isnt the platform for associates to take on full test playing nations when is.

Remove the associates and all you have is another ICC Champions trophy. So tell me what is the point then ?

When are the associates going to get to play the full test playing nations if not at the world cup. Are you nieve enough to think they will be added into the Future tours program. Thats a good joke.

Finally your last comment about associates being in mismatches. Do not put all assiciates in the same bucket

Ireland should have beaten Bangladesh only to lose by 27 runs, they beat England, they only lost by 5 wickets to India in India, & with 15 overs to go against the West Indies were favourites.

Ireland have been more than competitive in EVERY game. So dont tell me associates cannot be competitive. Ireland havent been beaten heavily by a full member nation since the last world cup. We should have beaten Australia last year and England the year before

Posted by Abhishek20 on (March 14, 2011, 8:14 GMT)

Steve Tikolo has revealed some shocking facts about the lack of opportunities in Kenyan cricket here. I think some of these facts could apply for the other Associates also. Iam a strong supporter of these teams and Iam sad that there isn't even a proper first class cricket in Kenya. Bad management really hurts. How can you expect a team to just show up at a World stage and beat big teams, when basics like good training etc aren't there? Barring some upsets, most of the games involving minnows end up in thrashings. Improvements only come slow and steadily. It has to be step by step-probably school teams, then first class, domestic and then on national, international levels. If you can't compete on first class level, it doesn't help much to compete on the biggest stage of them all. It is sad to see precious talents wasted due to lack of opportunities. I hope things improve for Kenya and minnows and wish them good luck for future.

Posted by ash_symby on (March 14, 2011, 6:50 GMT)

First of all, I want to thank Cricinfo for providing a platform for such important discussions concerning the future of the world cricket. It is high time that more and more countries start playing cricket and send their teams to play in international tournaments. ICC is doing its bit, but more is expected out of ICC than just giving grants and then seeing the development of cricket in the respective country. Kenyan players and talents have suffered due to the corrupt approach of the Kenyan Cricket Board, I agree. But ICC should have seen that the funds reach the grass root levels and should have taken measures to correct this problem in Kenya. I wish better future for the Kenyan cricket because I am deeply disappointed with the way they performed in the Current World Cup.

Posted by howizzat on (March 14, 2011, 5:22 GMT)

Ideally World Cup is not the platform for the Associates to stand up and compete as there is a huge mismatch between them and the top eight. The system works in other games like soccer and hockey where the weaker teams still stand a chance to compete. Lopsided matches unneccessarily put a drag on the tournament. In Cricket, today, WC can be best played by 10 teams, the top 8, Bangladesh and Ireland. Even Zimbabwe does not qualify. On the other hand Kenyan is also right in saying, the asso's are not getting exposure to quality Cricket. Then ICC can solve this problem by holding an alternate World cup in the year precceding to the WC. The Alternative World Cup shall include, 'A' teams of top 6 nations and the First Teams of the next best 8 nations. This shall provide lot of quality cricket and the neccessary competition. A Plate World Cup, in which 10 teams participating, leaving aside the top 6 teams can also be thought of.

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (March 14, 2011, 4:09 GMT)

instead of axing the minnows from future w/c , icc should issue a directive that each minnow team must play a domestic seasn with one of the test nation on rotational basis. so kenya plays a odi and t20 domestic season in aust. while, canada, ireland etc. play in another countries like, s.a , nz etc. then next year these team rotate their countries. they will get great exposure and based on that performance they can fight a out 2 places in next w/c. Lorgat needs to be kicked out as he doesn't know anything other than stand and cheer for india in a bollywood coproporate box with actors!!

Posted by landl47 on (March 14, 2011, 2:40 GMT)

Steve Tikolo has been a very good player and a great ambassador for Kenya for many years. The ICC should be listening very carefully to what he has to say; Kenya should by now be at or very close to test status, instead of being the weakest of the Associates at this WC. I also find it almost unbelievable in this day and age that members of the national team would be denied training facilities at Kenyan clubs unless the ICC pays for them. When I was playing club cricket in England we'd have been honored to have the national team training on our ground whenever they wished. If the ICC wants cricket to spread (and Africa is much more fertile soil than most of the rest of the world) it must examine how this can be achieved. We can't let Kenya and the other Associates die while cricket generates billions of dollars every year.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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