Team preview: Kenya September 6, 2007

One-man band

It's all about how well the support cast perform around Steve Tikolo. By Will Luke



Tikolo is Kenya's lynchpin. Will the pressure tell on him? © Getty Images

If the bigger, more established countries are struggling to work out their gameplans and scrabbling to find their best teams, spare a thought for Kenya. Twenty20 virgins, their inclusion as one of two Associate nations (Scotland is the other) is an undoubted fillip; they were permitted entry after reaching the final of World Cricket League in February. But is it fair on them?

Kenya's side is a carbon copy of their World Cup squad, with two new faces: Alex Obanda, a highly-thought-of batsman and Elijah Otieno, a medium-pacer. Both are 19 years old, which is an encouraging sign for the future of Kenyan cricket, but their early introduction into the helter-skelter world of international Twenty20 could do more harm than good to their confidence.

Strengths
Could their weakness be their strength? They are undoubted underdogs and, like Scotland, cannot argue against such a label. But the shortest format of the game might just suit them ... with a large slice of luck.

In Steve Tikolo they have a batsman of genuine class at the top of the order with a wide range of strokes. If he can fire, and others around him can play their naturally attacking game, there is always the opportunity to upset a sleeping giant. Obanda is a find, too; he represented Kenya at Under-17 level when he was 14, and recently scored 386 runs in Zimbabwe's Logan Cup - including his maiden first-class hundred. For the bowlers, Peter Ongondo averages 26.26 in his 51 ODIs and is well supported by the ageless and disciplined Thomas Odoyo.

Weaknesses
There won't be many sleeping giants for Kenya to sneak past in this tournament, however: it's too fast-paced, too short, and Kenya lack experience and star quality. Both New Zealand and Sri Lanka will be wary of an upset, as all Full Members are when they encounter the relatively unknown Associates, but they needn't be. Kenya's batting might have spunk, but the likes of Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum and Upul Tharanga ought to feast like ravenous monkeys on the back-up bowling. It is a tall and ominous ask for such an inexperienced team to make any impact on a tournament that even the big guns are approaching with trepidation.

There won't be many sleeping giants for Kenya to sneak past in this tournament: it's too fast-paced, too short, and Kenya lack experience and star quality

Players to watch
Steve Tikolo He rarely lets the side down and is their most influential, talented batsman. Kenya's cornerstone, but will the burden be too great?

Thomas Odoyo A chunky, powerful bowling allrounder with six one-day fifties under his belt and the ability to hit a very long six. But it is his bustling bowling that the team depends on most, and he remains disciplined and reliable.

Tanmay Mishra A gifted and aggressive middle-order batsman who is a delight to watch when he is in form, though he has yet to make the big hundreds many expected of him. Still only 20, he is one for the future.

Dark horse
Collins Obuya Once thought of as a very promising legspinner, Obuya and his wrong'uns have fallen by the wayside in recent years, forcing him to concentrate more on his batting. Perhaps his most prized asset is his electric fielding, but if he can settle into some sort of rhythm, his legspin could yet provide Tikolo with some semblance of control.

Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo

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