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Kenya's leading lights work with Australian coaching legends

Two of Kenya's leading lights from the last World Cup, Collins Obuya and Kennedy Otieno, have already begun their build-up to the next tournament by working with a pair of Australian coaching legends in Adelaide.
Legspinner Obuya, one of the stars of the 2003 tournament when Kenya reached the semi-finals, has just completed five weeks under the watchful eyes of Shane Warne's mentor, Terry Jenner. Meanwhile Obuya's brother, Otieno, currently playing club cricket in Victoria, has spent the past week working with former Australia `keeping great Rodney Marsh, who previously headed up Australia and England's academies.

Obuya's work with Jenner was arranged by ICC High Performance Manager (HPM) Richard Done and was an attempt to help him rediscover form and confidence. That confidence was sky-high in 2003 when his 13 World Cup wickets made him the talk of the cricketing world and earned him a contract with English county Warwickshire. Since then, however, it has been shattered by knee and appendix problems and a resultant lack of rhythm, something Jenner could see straight away when he began work with Obuya.

"When he arrived it was hard to believe he had ever bowled a legbreak because he had replaced it with pace and he was bowling much quicker than he had in 2003," said Jenner. "I even nicknamed him Courtney because he was all arms and legs, just like Courtney Walsh used to be, and he was also bowling at a similar pace."

Obuya confirmed: "I was really struggling with my legspin and was having difficulty bowling it so we broke it down and started from the very beginning. We spent the first two weeks learning about leg-spin and the basics of the art. We dealt with how to cock the wrist, how to deliver the ball, which fingers to use and when, and use of the left arm, all of which I did not really know."

The acid question is, of course, whether the intensive one-to-one coaching has helped the player. Jenner is sure it has. "We can't make him a world-beater in five weeks but what we have done is to show him what works and how it works," he said. "There's no doubt he has made good progress although we are on a hiding to nothing because people will remember the success he had two or three years ago and base what they see now on that. He is a good lad and I get the sense he is on the right track again."

Otieno's work with Marsh came about after he headed to Australia to play club cricket with Frankston, located outside Melbourne - like Obuya's spell in Adelaide, something that was organised by Done.
"I was keen to play in Australia as I was looking for a challenge - I wanted that," said Otieno, Kenya's regular opening batsman in addition to his skills behind the stumps. "Like everyone else I wanted to find out why it is that Australia is so successful and the chance to play some competitive cricket was the perfect opportunity for me to do just that. Richard [Done] and [Kenya Cricket Association Chairman] Samir Inamdar suggested I did some work with Rodney Marsh for a week and it was too good a chance to miss."

Marsh, currently working as a consultant for the South Australia Cricket Association ahead of starting a role in charge of the ICC's Global Cricket Academy in 2006, takes up the story. "I was approached by Richard and agreed to do some work with Kennedy, running him through sets of drills as I would with any other `keeper," he said. "I got the feeling from talking to him that he has never had anyone really sit down and talk to him about `keeping. He has just put the gloves on and got on with it.

"What we did was go right back to basics, looking at footwork, glovework and keeping the head still. Once he understands that then he can coach himself. We have worked on him giving with the ball, moving his hands, his feet and his hips and he has done pretty well. He has got natural ability to keep wicket and to strike the ball and it is up to us to help make sure he gets the most out of himself."

And do the players feel they have benefited from their experiences?

"I have learnt so much that will help towards my future," said Obuya. "Now I know so many aspects of my game and I only wish I had met TJ two years ago as he could have helped ensure I did not have my recent problems. My goal now is to continue with the good habits I have learnt here and to train hard."

Otieno added: "It has definitely been a good experience, well worth a try and I have got much more out of it than I expected. Playing here in a competitive environment on different pitches than I am used and also being coached by Rodney Marsh has left me feeling I have made big progress and this has given my World Cup preparations a kick-start."

Done explained why the work done by Otieno and Obuya should prove massively beneficial to their development as cricketers. "Good quality coaches with a Test background like TJ and Rod are not readily available in Kenya or any of the ICC High Performance Program countries," he said. "They can offer players like Collins and Kennedy additional insights and assist them in what is required to do well at the highest level and hopefully that is what has happened in this instance."

Part of the funding for Collins Obuya's trip to Australia and the coaching he received came from sponsorship by Petroleum and Industrial Services Ltd (PIS), Kenya's leading firm in the supply, installation and maintenance of petroleum equipment.