Cricket Kenya has announced it will give 13 players central contracts for the coming year, with a further seven, most likely up-and-coming youngsters, likely to be added next month. The absence of many older players is a clear indication the board is keen to look to the future rather than dwell on the success of 2003.
This is the latest move in a general shake-up of the national game following a dismal World Cup campaign. Many felt the old contracts system allowed players to cruise, with few demands on them in terms of performance. It also failed to prevent them going on strike last summer.
Although the new contracts run for 12 months and offer improved salaries and match fees, there is a review after five and eight months at which time changes could be made. The group was chosen after a full review of past performances and in consultation with coaching staff, selectors, and ICC High Performance staff.
Several long-established players missed out, including World Cup captain Jimmy Kamande, Peter Ongondo, Thmoas Odoyo and former captain Maurice Ouma. Four others who were not in the World Cup squad - Ragheb Aga, Runish Gudhka, Lucas Oluoch, Hiren Varaiya - are included. Inevitably, the local media, which is willing to be used as a mouthpiece for disgruntled cricketers, will go into overdrive in the coming weeks. The board will be expecting nothing less.
'We have awarded these contracts with a view to building a National squad capable of representing Kenya with distinction in the coming years," said CK chief executive Tom Sears. "There's a blend of experienced players who have competed in World Cups and other ICC events and some young players who have come through our development programme and age group teams.
'It is very much a squad for the future of Kenyan cricket and we have selected multi-faceted players who have the ability to excel in more than one of the three disciplines - batting, bowling and fielding. We have to aim to excel in the two areas we have complete control of - fielding and fitness, and achieve genuine World class standards in these areas. If we achieve this collective performances and results will improve.
"The newly contracted players all have the ability to reach these levels as well as perform with bat and ball. They will be subjected to regular fitness testing and expected to attain specified standards, their contracts will be dependent on reaching and exceeding these standards.
"We have invested in the future, hence the larger number of contracts that previously anticipated. Consistent high performance will be rewarded, substandard performance will be addressed."
Sears also made clear that being based outside the country, which has been a bar on selection in the past, was not an issue. 'Most will be based in Kenya, some will be based overseas and their contracts activated when they are available for National duty. What is important is that the door is open to any player, wherever they are based, if they can show they have the potential to reach the standards we expect."
He also said there was every chance for players outside the 20 to force their way into contention for selection. "[They will be picked if] their performances have dictated they should be selected, equally having a contract is no guarantee of selection.
"Being awarded a contract to represent Kenya is an honour and with it comes expectations and responsibilities on and off the field. We will expect very high standards in all areas and believe the selected players can reach these and take Kenyan cricket to the levels we aspire to."
Kenya centrally-contracted players
Ragheb Aga, Runish Gudhka, Tanmay Mishra, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Lucas Oluoch, Elijah Otieno, Rakep Patel, Hiren Varaiya, Seren Waters.