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Kenyan cricket bowled out

NAIROBI, April 14 – Stung by the poor performance in the 2011 World Cup, the Kenya cricket community has turned the heat on its leaders for the woes facing the once-promising cricket nation.

Former administrators, players and analysts believe Cricket Kenya (CK) has failed to raise the standards and provide leadership to a fast-changing sport and called for management changes to save the game from collapsing.

"The buck stops with the administration," said former Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) chairman Jimmy Rayani. "Things have gone from bad to worse in the last three years. These officials know very well the problems, but have decided to sweep things under the carpet."

Much of the anger and frustration has centred on the absence of plans to form a structured national domestic league and an integrated youth development programme to provide opportunities for the future.

Plans for the re-launching of a new league, which formed the backbone of Kenyan cricket for the past 40 years are already under way, but many cricket observers have cast doubts whether the competition would inspire quality.

However lack of sponsorship and the falling interests in attendance during past competitions have seen several top clubs disbanded.

"The local clubs have got to be more involved and the league structure properly organised so that it is more competitive," said former international and cricket administrator Jasmer Singh Grewal.

The new league consisting of eight teams will be launched in the three major towns of Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru and will involve players from the national team and professionals from the Asian sub-continent.

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However senior players and administrators said the formation of such a big-teams league would not be viable given that there are very few national team players to be distributed among the eight teams.

"CK wants to have eight teams so that they can keep everybody happy," said former opener Kennedy Obuya, adding: "I think they should make the league to be composed of only four teams to make it competitive for the players to fight for their places. You need people to fight for less positions, and it will make the league more interesting."

Grewal called for the revival of the old league competition, where clubs played each other on communal basis, and with the participation of two or three contracted overseas players from India and Pakistan, the competition was very fierce, of high standards and attracted large crowds.

Another matter of concern is the absence of a youth development programme, to tap and nurture talent in schools.

As most of the senior players, including those who participated in the 2011 World Cup, having reached retirement, the absence of young skilled players to take over from them may be a big setback to the sport in Kenya.

With no cricket academies in place, the Kenyan cricket board finds itself short of talented players to join the national team.

"Steve Tikolo has just retired from the national team and we may not get his replacement soon. As we speak we have yet to get a replacement for Maurice Odumbe in the national side," said cricket journalist Richard Mwangi.

Obuya, who together with his cricketing brothers, Collins and David, run the privately-owned Obuya cricket academy to cater for children between the ages of eight to 17, said Kenya needed more than five such facilities to develop skills.

Obuya, however blamed the board from preventing the former players from participating in the development of the game.

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