Cricket Cricket

Loss of ODI status spells bleak future


OBANDA-UGANDANAIROBI, Kenya, February 11- The cost of losing ODI status for Kenya at the recent ICC World Cup qualifier in New Zealand could be the beginning of the end of the country’s cricket as we know it.

Kenya joined Netherlands and Canada in losing the One Day International ranking with United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea ascending the ladder.

While the Dutch and Canada have the resources to bid for a successful return to the second tier of international cricket, it remains to be seen whether Kenya, an ICC World Cup semi finalist in 2003, can mend her game after a decade of rot.

Kenya finished fifth in the Super Six round of the competition, while The Netherlands and Canada failed to make it past the group stage. Netherlands have been an ODI member since 2006, while Kenya’s status goes back to 1996.

“It is sad for Kenya cricket but there is nothing we can do about the situation. We have to wait for the team to come back before deciding the way forward,” Cricket Kenya said in a statement on Monday.

Cricket Canada president Ravin Moorthy said they hadn’t yet “heard definitively from ICC what the plan will be for the top 10 Associates/Affiliates other than the four that have gone on to the World Cup”.

“No doubt our funding will take a hit, as well as a reduced playing program that will hamper our ability to continue to have a full-time men’s team. In terms of development, we still believe strongly in our programs and have been rewarded by further ICC investment in our grass-roots programs that will continue to deliver strong growth numbers in our sport in Canada,” Moorthy said.

“We are also buoyed by the fact that Canada continues to be an important commercial market for cricket and we will continue to expand that marketplace while we get our high performance program back on track.”

For Kenya it will be hard to pick up the pieces, dust up and move on. Finances and international matches will be hard to come by.

Not even changes made in the team management and playing unit could salvage the country status as a player at the next top level of the game after Test.

Kenya were seeking their sixth appearance in the ICC World Cup and in a desperate move, CK selectors recalled a number of veteran players to the team.

They included Steve Tikolo, who was brought back from retirement to guide Kenya in the unsuccessful Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers campaign played in Dubai last October.

Tikolo replaced Robin Brown, who stood down after the side’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Twenty20.

Also recalled was Thomas Odoyo, a veteran of four World Cups and was participating in the event as player cum coach.

Rakep Patel assumed the captaincy from Collins Obuya with Tikolo also recalling Lameck Onyango to the team.

Just a decade ago, the world stood still temporarily as Kenya curved their niche in cricket by reaching the semi-finals of 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

Basking at the crescent of the wave, many had hoped that moment of glory and top performance would spur the country to greater success and help it peg a permanent spot among the premier cricket Test playing countries.

But ten years down the line, since Kenya lost to India at the 2003 World Cup in the semis the team has faded.

hange of tenure at the management of cricket in the country — which saw the election of Jackie Janmohammed the first woman to head a national cricket board — did nothing as players, government and other stakeholders failed to dig deep to unearth the cause of the loss of form.

“Kenya needs to play against stronger teams,” said Tikolo. “We have some talented youngsters but they desperately need exposure. Top matches are hard to come by.”

Since qualifying for the World Cup hosted by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2011, it has been hard to string together three matches with associate of test countries.

Kenya have looked ordinary in their play and Tikolo apportioned the blame to lack of exposure.

“We need to play more competitive games. We have to play against stronger sides otherwise it is going to be very difficult to bring any improvement to our performance,” he said. “This has pushed back our development program.”

CK needs at least 1.2 million US dollars to run the sport professionally in the country but there is a shortfall of around 800,000 dollars.

Kenya gets 450,000 dollars from the ICC and the government is not concerned to help offset the deficit. Sponsorship packages that included, 150,000 dollars from TV rights and 100,000 dollars from local company Tusker have since dried up. Now even the money for their ODI status has been lost.

“Kenya doesn’t have a cricket culture, which is why we badly need a proper schools structure to find new players and that is not possible without proper funding. The ICC is giving us a grant but it’s far from enough. The government help is non-existent while sponsorship is scarce. We need more international support.”

Teams that Kenya could easily beat in the last decade have made tremendous strides and have steadily risen up to be known as giants. Bangladesh’s ascent to the Test arena with the support of Asian powers India and Pakistan can attest to this.

Even fellow African countries that respected Kenya and would be willing to engage the national team in friendly and organised matches are now not keen to offer the exposure the players need.

South Africa and Zimbabwe — the only two Test teams from Africa — will only play teams from outside the continent.

South Africa haven ‘t visited Kenya in six years while Zimbabwe last came to Nairobi in 2005.