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Kenyan cricket; On a free-fall since 2003

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Kenyan cricket has been on a downward spiral since 2003 © Getty Images

Nairobi: Feb 21, 2014

No Kenyan cricket lover needs a star gazer to predict that in a few years the country will be a cricket desert, their present international status notwithstanding.

Forget about the excitement generated by the outstanding performances in the past, including an incredible victory over the West Indies in the 1996 World Cup, quite simply, Kenya cannot survive on past glory, reports Xinhua.

Their problem is a simple one: they don’t have a meaningful national youth programme. There is nothing in place to continuously replace the veterans who are retiring each year.

On several occasions, Cricket Kenya (CK) has recalled retired players during World Cup qualifiers or the World Cup itself. In 2003, the board recalled former captain Asif Karim out of retirement to play in the World Cup, co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The 42-year-old Steve Tikolo was recalled from retirement to steer the team as player-cum-coach during the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai last October. Also recalled was another veteran Thomas Odoyo, aged 36.

Karim said the inclusion of Tikolo led to an embarrassing 11th position in the qualifiers.

“Steve has served as a player and captain of Kenya with a lot of dignity over the years. Unfortunately, as a coach, his skills are wanting. He failed miserably as the Under-19 coach when Kenya did not qualify for the U-19 World Cup in 2013,” Karim said.

The three World Cup veteran said Tikolo’s inclusion alongside Odoyo was a welcome move by the selectors under the circumstances. However, their performance didn’t make much impact.

National coach Robin Brown from Zimbabwe and captain Collins Obuya resigned in December leading to a lacuna that saw the elevation of Tikolo.

There is no active nationwide youth tournament which the national selectors can draw from. In short, cricket-wise, Kenya is like a vehicle that has no reserve fuel, no service station anywhere in the vicinity and is steadily heading for empty.

Surprisingly, there have been loud proclamations for the world to hear that the country is ripe for Test status. Kenya, alongside the Netherlands and Canada, recently lost One-Day International (ODI) status owing to their poor show in the just concluded ICC World Cup qualifier in New Zealand.

United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea replaced them as new ODI members, joining Ireland, Afghanistan and Scotland for the next four years.

Instead of showing alarm at the depleting resources, the speed is being accelerated. Someone will have to apply the brakes and radio for help.

Cricket Kenya former chairman Sharad Ghai said the board should stop feigning surprise that they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup and also lost the One Day International (ODI) status.

“It was an open secret that making it to the 2015 World Cup would be more than an uphill task because the players had been put on a slippery slope through the years by continued blundering officials. I was not surprised. It was easy to see a losing team. In fact, I would have been surprised if Kenya qualified for the World Cup because preparations were poor,” Ghai said.

There is the need to shift focus from Nairobi because the city is not the only place where cricket talent lies. The management also needs to professionalise because the era of volunteers is as gone as the last century.

Since Kenya lost to India at the 2003 World Cup semifinal, the beam of hope has faded and instead has been replaced by despondency and discontent.

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