Stephen Ogonji Tikolo
June 25, 1971, Nairobi
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
It is a measure of his ability and standing that in many people's eyes Steve Tikolo has epitomised Kenyan cricket for more than a decade. His whole approach to the game has a Caribbean flavour to it. A middle-order batsman who relies on his eye as much as technique and who can attack or defend as the situation demands, he possesses a wide range of strokes, but when he is in full flow he can be a punishing player at any level. His bowling has gone from being medium-pace to a Chris Gayle-like gentle offspin, seemingly innocuous but deceptively effective in the one-day game. It almost goes without saying that he had led Kenya in the post Maurice Odumbe era, and has done so by example.
Coming from a famous cricketing family (older brother Tom is a former national captain and another brother David played at the 1996 World Cup), he was immediately at home on the international stage, when Kenya made their World Cup debut in 1996. He made 65 in their first game, against India at Cuttack, top-scored with a vital 29 in their sensational low-scoring victory over West Indies at Pune, and contributed 96 against Sri Lanka at Kandy, establishing himself as his country's leading batsman. This was further shown when he made a destructive 147 against Bangladesh in the 1997 ICC Trophy final, taking Kenya to a second successive World Cup, and new ODI status.
He again performed well in the 1999 World Cup, with fifties against India and England, and on taking over the captaincy in 2002 he immediately underlined his class by scoring 93 and 69 in that year's Champions Trophy. While he had a personally disappointing start to the World Cup in 2003, he came good with the bat and his contributions with the ball and astute captaincy helped Kenya to reach the semi-finals.
This performance, aided by Tikolo's burgeoning reputation, led to calls for Kenya to be granted Test status, but those coincided with a rapid disintegration of the game inside the country as the KCA fell out with the stakeholders. After a wretched 2004 Champions Trophy, Tikolo quit as captain, weary from 18 months of battling his own board, and he was at the heart of a players' strike which followed and which, eventually, helped lead to the ousting of the old regime.
Under new management, he returned as captain, showing that his appetite and ability was undiminished. He failed to shine on a bigger stage in the Afro-Asia Cup, although his opportunities were cruelly limited, but continued to weigh in with bat and ball as Kenya returned to the international arena in 2006.
In a much-travelled career, he has played a considerable amount of club cricket in England as well as first-class cricket in South Africa (with Border) and Bangladesh.
Consistent performances led him to be shortlisted for the inaugural ICC Associate ODI Player of the Year in 2007.
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