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Stripped but far from bare

The ICC's decision to strip Kenya of one-day member status will benefit Kenyan cricket

Steve Tikolo: he and Kenya can look forward to a brighter future © Getty Images
The announcement that the ICC has scrapped the category of one-day member will probably be greeted with dismay in some circles and viewed as a direct snub against Kenya. Critics of the recently-elected Kenyan Cricket Association will delight in what they anticipate will be the discomfort of the new board .
While the headline that Kenya have been stripped of their one-day status makes good copy, the reality is altogether different. True, Kenya's unique status - they are the only one-day member - has been ended, but it is anything but bad news for Kenyan cricket.
The category was created as a stepping stone for countries to prepare for Test status. Bangladesh were the first, and they were followed by Kenya in 1997. Bangladesh went on to become the tenth Test-playing country in 2001, leaving Kenya as the sole one-day member.
But circumstances then changed. Bangladesh's performances were poor, and as calls for them to be stripped of their Test status grew it became clear that the ICC could not allow another weak member to be accepted into the elite. Kenya itself was being ripped apart by internal disputes and widespread allegations of mismanagement, and their performance in the ICC Champions Trophy - coupled with the abysmal display by another associate, the USA - led the powers that be to call time.
The original intention was that one-day membership would mean that those involved would be given more access to games against the big boys, thus speeding their development. In the last two years, Kenya have played two ODIs, both in Champions Trophy. Despite being World Cup semi-finalists, they have not been able to secure a single additional ODI anywhere. So much for the intent - the reality is that it has made not a jot of difference to Kenyan cricket.
Sharad Ghai, the ousted Kenyan Cricket Association, repeatedly asked for the ICC to put pressure on its members to allow Kenya to the table, but the reality was that they were not big box office abroad, and few boards wanted to play in Nairobi against the backdrop of the KCA's mismanagement of the sport.
And so the special status enjoyed by Kenya is gone. But rather than being a backward step, it should be seen for what it is - a real chance for Kenya to make up for lost time. What Kenya's players need far more than any special status is to actually play the game against good opposition.
Samir Inamdar, the new KCA chairman, has been meeting with the chief executives of all the other boards at Lord's this week. Rightly, he did not waste time in trying to persuade them to maintain Kenya's one-day status - that was a done deal some time ago - but chose instead to convince them that Kenya were getting their house in order and were again ready to start being taken seriously.
The net result is that several countries have provisionally agreed to send A teams to Nairobi, and, crucially, Bangladesh have expressed their desire to host a triangular one-day series in Dhaka in November involving Kenya and Zimbabwe. There has also been talk of Kenya's leading players being given top-level exposure with domestic teams in other countries, and even of the national side being entered in domestic competitons.
And less well documented is the fact that the abolition of one-day membership has been coupled with the announcement that six associates will now be granted one-day rights and all matches they play will be classified as full ODIs, as well some pretty significant additional funding. So it is in the interests of all six to play each other, and with Kenya, despite all its problems, in pole position as the best of the rest, they will be the one able to call the shots.
Critics argue that Kenya are no longer guaranteed a World Cup and Champions Trophy spot, and that they have to take their chances with other associates in the four-yearly qualifying tournament (which also determines which six countries have one-day status). But the reality is that if Kenya cannot get into that top six, then they do not deserve to consider themselves a serious player on the world stage. Given the talent they possess and the enthusiasm which remains despite the problems, they should be at the head of the six.
Financially, Kenya will be better off. The status of one-day member brought with it no monetary benefit. The top six associates will now get US$500,000 over four years on top of their exisiting entitlements.
The ICC's decision should not be seen as kicking a man when he is down, but rather a positive step which should help Kenya get back on course. It will also ensure that the competition among the second string countries is fiercer than it has ever been.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo