Goodbye Tom, Mike. Who’s next?

Over the past week Cricket Kenya slipped into what I am going to call a leadership crisis. Or rather issues that have being bubbling under the surface came to the surface. Its chief executive got poached by Connacht Rugby Union, the men’s national team coach resigned, citing the security of his family, and Cricket Kenya’s electing of a new board is still to happen as the circus surrounding Nairobi’s delegates (and candidate for the seat) continues to roll. In between all that there was a little bit of good news as Zimbabwean Robin Brown, under who’s charge Zimbabwe shocked Australia in a t20 world cup in 2007, joined Kenya’s coaching staff with a mandate to lead the head hunting of new talent. Back to the matter at hand. Cricket Kenya was born in 2005 out of a need to end the chaos and misdirection that had engulfed Cricket in Kenya. The organisation now finds itself sliding into the kind of vacuum of leadership, that its founders no doubt used to rail against in its early days. Lets look at the two resignations as a template to what might be going on at the top and its implications to Cricket Kenya’s bigger project for cricket in Kenya. The chief executive, Tom Sears, came in on the back of a lengthly, head hunting process, and with a CV that stank to high heaven on transformative leadership ability. Indeed even as he leaves to cooler climes in June, his new employers are gaga over the kind of ability they are paying for in him. At the time, it made sense (at least to me) that an organisation like cricket Kenya, with its archaic club cricket system, lack of penetration, visibility and in general systems to churn out the quality of player Kenya needs to match the expectations of its fans, that transformative leadership what was needed. I feel that is the most important criteria for whoever takes over from him, wherever he or she is from. In his tenure, he has seen the establishment (or re-establishment) of a national cricket league in the form of the East Africa Cup and Premier League. On his watch women’s cricket got its own league and, if the Cricket Kenya official website is to be believed, he has overseen an ever growing pool of coaches upon which Kenya’s cricketing future could look to build a brighter future. Yet, even in the face of all this, the marquee national mens team’s downward spiral continued unabated. Humbled in all games at the 2011 World Cup matches, continually outshone by associate peers (Ireland, Netherlands, Afghanistan et al) and unable to squeeze so much as a warm up game from any full member of the ICC, and still yet to come to grips with t20 cricket. Our national team is in dire straits. That’s the on field problems, off the wicket there continues to be a cloud of mistrust and intrigue hanging over the th relationship between the national team’s players and the board. There were rumours of unrest during the 2011, world cup and the row that broke out in the fall out of their performance led to the retirement of several senior players and the unavailability of several others for several months. There were hints that players were being used as pawns by ‘unnamed outsiders’ at the height of the unrest to further their own agendas. My interactions on and offline with stakeholders on these issues paint a picture of a Chief Executive that had either been sidelined altogether or co-opted by one of the warring factions, where his potential as a neural arbiter was most wanted. As he leaves, these problems continue and will continue to be an elephant in the room for whoever takes over from him. They will crowd out bigger more long term priorities and their by products will create a stench that will affect everyone connected to the game of cricket in Kenya. As for Mike Hesson, the resigning men’s national team coach, the official reasons for his departure are stated to be the lack of security for his family in Nairobi. Whether this is from Al Shabaab, or not was not clarified in the press release. Either way, it would be irresponsible to endanger one’s own flesh and blood over cricket job, no matter how big it is. Nonetheless, it would also be stupid to assume that the above mentioned issues around the national team did not affect his final decision to quit. Indeed he showed up for work smack dab in the middle of contractual row that robbed Kenya of its best Fast bowlers and several gifted batsmen. It was several months before he had access to all of Kenya’s best talent. While in charge Kenya scored mixed results in World Cup qualifiers against Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland, failed to win a single Intercontinental Cup match, and missed out on the t20 world cup again. Mixed in was an encouraging tour of Andhra State in India, and a more humbling t20 visit to Namibia and Zimbabwe. All in all this blogger reckons that while some individual members of the national team have grown in stature under his watch, his work was not made easier by the people he was working for and it showed in th team’s results. All in all however much these two are likely to be made scapegoats for all the problems in their respective tenures it should not be lost on observers, fans, and stakeholders that whatever’s wrong with cricket in Kenya was not born when either showed up and just because they’ve left doesn’t mean they will end.

Author: Kimemia Maina

blogger, writer, dreamer...

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