September 4, 2011

No turning back for Kenya

The board did the right thing by axing players who had held them to ransom in the past

That a handful of Kenya's cricketers have again decided they are in a strong enough position to try to play hardball with Cricket Kenya is a masterclass in self-delusion and bad timing.

For a number of years Kenya's cricketers have been Associate cricket's most pampered professionals, while their performances and, in some cases, their commitment have been increasingly woeful. Strikes, boycotts of training, and internal bickering dominate the headlines more than anything achieved on the pitch. The nadir came at the World Cup earlier this year, when they were abject on the field and a shambles off it.

The board finally decided enough was enough and sent out the message that things would have to change. Top-to-bottom reform of the game's structure was undertaken, and the old guard in the squad was culled. The players expected to form the nucleus of the team going forward were offered new deals, but ones that meant they were more accountable. The clear message was that the old days, where the role for some was a virtual sinecure, were over. It is worth flagging at this point that Kenya's cricketers have been well rewarded, in terms of salaries and benefits, in recent years, and in comparison with the national average wage, their pay is good.

This new approach appears lost on some. Undoubtedly they are being advised - perhaps manipulated might be more accurate in certain instances - by people with agendas against the board, but only the most blinkered of them can think they have a morally defensible case.

It now seems some of players' decisions were not only about themselves but also about trying to force the board to take back some of those jettisoned after the World Cup farrago. They told the board - offer X and Y contracts as well, or we won't sign. When that failed, they resorted to plan B and simply demanded more money.

Up to now this kind of blackmail has worked because the board has had a small pool of players to choose from. But there are now youngsters coming through, and, correctly, Cricket Kenya has decided it would prefer to take a short-term hit in terms of results to allow it to build for the future, and at the same time cut out the cancer that has undermined all attempts at reform.

What all players were offered seems fair for any professional sportsman. Perform, stay fit and committed, and you will be looked after. Fail to do that and your place is at risk. However, those who refused contracts wanted all the perks with none of the responsibilities. As one Cricket Kenya official put it: "It's about time that professional players realised that they have to prove themselves on the field of play to justify the security they would get from cricket."

Any lingering sympathy for the players disappeared when, hours before they were due to play for franchise sides in the East Africa competitions last weekend, they all indicated they would refuse to do so. It was an old tactic, one that had cost them and their board money and credibility when they did exactly the same a year ago on the eve of a tour to England.

To its credit, the board, led by chief executive Tom Sears, has a new resolve and has called their bluff all the way. The players now find themselves without an income, and replaced by youngsters with the commitment and enthusiasm needed to play for their country. Far from being in the driving seat, the old guard now finds itself without the car.

For the good of the game it has to be hoped that some of the younger and more promising names among those who are at odds with the board realise that they need cricket more than it needs them. And that for those operating within the structure as it stands, the rewards are more worthwhile than the alternatives.

But if they don't, then it is vital Sears and his board stand firm. For too long Kenya's prospects have been undermined by selfishness and laziness, and those days have to end if Kenya are once more to be taken seriously on the world stage.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gavin on September 4, 2011, 13:46 GMT

    @yorkshire-86 regarding the cricket board of Zimbabwe I've seen the ZC acronym before so I would assume it would be Zimbabwe Cricket. But nothing would beat the BCCI yeah? Board of Control of Cricket in India??? As for the article, couldn't agree more. Not just Kenyans, but West Indians, Australians, Pakistanis or English whatever. You are cricketers. You are not the gods. Stop demanding all and be happy with what you are given, which compared to some, is a lot.

  • Steve on September 4, 2011, 13:38 GMT

    This is a good omen for Kenya's cricket. The players and fans alike have to realize no one is bugger than the game at any time. The corrective actions must include hiring a core set of administrators and coaches with impeccable credentials to run the game. Results may not be favorable in the first year or two, but will surely improve over time.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    This was the correct tonic required by CK to instil discipline in Kenyan Cricket. Arrogance is a short term measure, but not a long term solutions. Every time there was a major event where Kenya was to participate, the players used their refusal to participate as a bargaining chip to further their self greed. There may have been big wigs behind theses actions, as the big wigs had a self interest to further their agenda. Tom Sears hope you can achieve your vision for CK. CK should ensure professional discipline is vital for prosperity.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 11:12 GMT

    If an article on the daily telegraph is correct, the highest earning Kenyan at the world cup was Tikolo, who earned $1000/month. Pampered? Well payed? The average pay compares favourably to the national average, but it's still not much. Especially considering they won't have a career to fall back on when they retire. When you link pay to performance, the uncertainty might drive potential players away from the game.

  • Jeff on September 4, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    Why are all thesel cricket boards calling themselves absulutly ridiculous names? 'Cricket Kenya'? 'Cricket Australia'? 'Cricket Zimbabwe'? Whats wrong with a proper name, like 'Kenyan Cricket Board'?

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 10:40 GMT

    Thank God..!!!Good Sense prevailed in CK..!!!In the first place, all of us should realise that a semifinal place in 2003WC didn't really mean,that Kenya at sometime was the 3rd or 4th best side in the world.It happened because teams were not really willing to play in Zim & Ken.Hence,they got a benefit of that.But undoubtedly,the standard had gone down in the past 6-7 yrs.Of course,what the seniors were doing was unacceptable and CK is right in teaching them this lesson.Atleast ,all those people blaming ICC for everything will now realise that the Kenyan Players themselves are responsible for the decline of Cricket.ICC did all it could.Why should it pump millions into a country where the administration & athletes weren't serious enough...???Secondly,countries like UGANDA & NAM seem to have done better with their limited resources and the general interest in Kenyan Cricket has declined.However,I still hope,this brings a big change in Kenyan Cricket...!!!

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    Nail on head. They should also be forced out of first class cricket or whatever Kenya's cricket board has control of. Stop the rot before it spreads.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    It is a good step by CK to invest in the youth. They will surely get returns. The old Guard has become too arrogant and greedy. Hope Kenya returns to old level before the 2013 WCQ

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