Re-opening Kenyan Sports: The way forward for cricket


Over the course of the current series of posts, I will be looking at the situation of various Kenyan Sports, as the nation attempts to move forward in the wake of the global covid-pandemic.

In the last post I looked at the situation in football, this post will look at cricket. This is the most historically successful sport in Kenya, and one I have written a great deal about on this blog.

The Big picture
While as most other sports mostly have only the covid-19 pandemic to worry about, there is no shortage to the number of crises, or rather the scope of the existential crisis, gripping the game of cricket right now.

Lack of legitimate leadership at the top, wrangles between virtually all stakeholders of the game, lack of a development program, and dwindling player numbers means that the sport has a lot to contend with to survive the pandemic, or even grow in the aftermath.

The Domestic game
Ordinarily local cricket clubs participate in regional 50 over, 40 overs and T20 competions at the regional leval from March through to December. This is a bit of a hold-over from the traditional ‘English cricketing summer.’ The most vibrant competitions were based in the Nairobi and Mombasa region, with Rift Valley also at times putting together competitions for teams based around Nakuru.

So far it is not clear how what will become of these competitions, until the Kenyan government’s task force on sports concludes its work and give a way forward.

Thomas Odoyo in action in a Mombasa NIC bank sponsored competition (Source: The Standard)

National teams
At the global level, the men and women’s national teams were in the process of attempting to qualify for the next 2020 World Cup, when all cricket was suspended due to the covid-19 pandemic. The men’s 2020 world Cup has been pushed forward a year, and the global qualifying tournament suspended until further notice. Kenya was also scheduled to participate in the now postponed Africa T20 Cup midway through this year.
Though the International Cricket Council has since published guidelines for playing cricket in a ’socially distanced manner, the Africa Cricket Association has yet to give direction on how, or when the Africa T20 Cup tournament might possibly be re-scheduled.

There has also not been any communication of ne dates for pending qualifying tournaments that Kenya is scheduled to participate in for the foreseeable future

Off the field
Even before government regulations suspended cricket, as part of the suspension of public gatherings, the management structure of the game was on the brink of collapse. Elections for the top management board of Cricket Kenya failed, a draft constitution, meant to break the deadlock at the top management of Cricket Kenya was trashed literally days after it was released. Since then there does not seem to be much of an appetite for reconciliation who knows when or how the deadlock will be broken?

Re-opening Kenyan Sports: The Way forward for Football


Over the course of the next few posts I will be reporting on the current state of play concerning Kenyan sports, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. I will be looking at how each sport has been affected, what is being done to mitigate plans to restart, and possibly what the new normal will look like. This first post will look at the football, the people’s sport.


The overall picture


When the Covid-19 pandemic reached Kenya, the government was quick to cancel public gatherings of more than 15 people. Football Kenya Federation, following from that cue then suspended and then curtailed football leagues all over the country. This also resulted in the indefinite suspension of all scheduled National team matches that were scheduled to be held in Kenya across all national teams.


Local leagues
Because the curtailment decision appears to have been taken of the heads of the Kenya Premier league Board, there is a case before the Sports Dispute Tribunal challenging its legality. The decision of the tribunal is expected at the end of this month.

Players from Tusker FC and AFC Leopards in action (Source: Goal.com)


At this point in time, with restrictions on public gatherings of various kinds still in force, FKF has a tentative resumption schedule of October for football leagues, with a 12 week transfer window leading up to November 2nd, for teams to reorganize and strengthen their teams. At this point in time, these plans are only tentative though, The Ministry of Sports has only spoken about re-starting ‘non-contact’ sports, with a task force currently their primary concern.


Even before this transfer window was opened, several clubs have already started to shake up their playing squads. KCB FC released 10 players, Gor Mahia lost three squad members to Wazito FC, and Tanzanian club Azam FC. They have signed Levis Opiyo (a goalie) from Nairobi City Stars)
The new league will proceed with a new corporate sponsor (Nigeria’s BetKing), and will see some 1.2 billion shillings, over the course of 5 years invested into the league.

Harambee Stars


As for the national teams, CAF has postponed the Africa Cup of Nations men’s edition to 2021, and cancelled the women’s edition altogether, in favour of a women’s club champions league. Harambee Stars, like most other men’s teams, had 4 qualifying matches pending to qualify for tej Cup of nations, and it remains to be seen how these will (if at all) be re-scheduled


Off the field


While so much attention is directed to the pandemic, it is easy to forget that the FKF is now almost a year overdue national elections. When the pandemic struck, there was an ongoing dispute over the nullification of national polls by the Sports Dispute Tribunal. The latest developments are that the FKF Electoral Board will publish a roadmap on August 11, to break the impasse. Whether stakeholders are willing to run with it remains to be seen.

The Kobus Olivier Files


Recently, an audio interview with short lived Cricket Kenya CEO, Kobus Olivier. surfaced in a Whatsapp group in which I am a member. The clip appears to have come from an extensive podcast interview called the ‘Cricket Nomad‘ which Mr. Olivier talks about his life as a cricket nomad’.

The twelve minute clip sheds light on a period where the decline of the game in Kenya, for lack of a better description, really came out in the open. In this post I will address some of the themes that struck me about what Mr Olivier’s Kenya experience.

Kobus Olivier, at his desk when working for Cricket Kenya (Source: Cricket Kenya)

The National team
He describes a generation of players coming to the end of it’s life span without discernible replacements coming through the system.

He points out that at the qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup, Kenya had the oldest squad players, and that aside from Irfan Karim, whom he holds in quiet high regard there isn’t much ‘seasoning’ among the younger players coming through at that time

The board itself
In the audio, he paints a picture of a weak board, dominated by the chairperson, Mrs. Janmohamed, fixated only on the prospect of failure at the upcoming 2015 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers. No interest in his development plans, no development plans of their own, and an apparent fear of anyone taking initiative lest they offend the chairperson.

In this clip he reveals that ultimately, his work with Cricket Kenya came to an end after it turned out that the board had failed to secure a proper work permit for him, and that he was working illegally.

Former players
In his brief stint as Cricket Kenya CEO, Mr. Olivier developed quite a fond opinion of the former national team players that he engaged with. In particular he expresses alot of praise for former Kenya Cricket and Davis Cup tennis captain Aasif Karim.

He describes Mr. Karim as a man who knows the game inside out, anda massive potential asset to the game in Kenya. Also highlighted for praise are former captains Morris Odumbe, and Steve Tikolo, and former pace man (an current Botswana coach) Joseph Angara.

The ICC

The International Cricket Council, through the Africa Cricket Association, are presented as being reluctant to intervene in the workings of a democratically elected board, even as their officers on the ground commiserate with Mr. Olivier’s struggles

The Future of Cricket in Kenya

Mr. Olivier draws parralels with the situation in South Africa, where Cricket South Africa has put legendary players such as Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher in charge of the national team. He believes that the same should apply to Kenya. He argues that the exposure an Aasif Karim or a Morris Odumbe brings to the table from their own careers cannot be gotten by any other means.


Summary
Mr Olivier served as Cricket Kenya in the year 2014, at a time when Mrs. Jackie Janmohamed, was coming to the end of her first term as Cricket Kenya Chief Executive. It was also during this time that Kenya missed their first World Cup in close to 20 years.

Since then, Mrs Janmohamed, has been re-elected and resigned twice as the head of Cricket Kenya, and now heads up a hold over committee as well as chairing the Africa Cricket Association.The process of re-writing Cricket Kenya’s Constitution continues to stutter through acrimony and allegations of vested interests. Nairobi’s clubs no longer organise their leagues through the Nairobi County Cricket Association among other problems.

Conclusion

In light of Mr. Olivier’s assertions, it seems that there is little hope in expecting the current status quo to resolve the impasse Cricket Kenya is in on their own. It seems that unless some radical intervention (possibly on the level of India’s Supreme Court dissolving India’s BCCI and appointing neutral administrators) takes place, Kenyan cricket is doomed to a cycle of half baked initiatives, torpedoed by vested interests who in turn come in with half baked initiatives that get the game nowhere.

Another shot at Redemption?

A draft of a new constitution for Cricket Kenya has been circulated on social media. Is this a fresh start for the game?


It has been more than a minute since this blog has been active. These days of social (or physical distancing) seem like as good a time as any to get the blog up out of long term hibernation.

Anyway on to the subject of today’s post. Cricket Kenya, or rather the interim committee that has been running the shell of what is left of Cricket Kenya, recently published a daft constitution meant to provide a way forward for the game. The game in Kenya has been in a terrible mess after the implosion of the last executive board.

The draft is meant to provide a foundation upon which the game of cricket should be governed, in line with the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and the Sports Act 2013. After the acrimony of the demise of the last Cricket Kenya executive committee, the draft is also meant to act as a basis for the establishment of a new, more accountable board.

The most anticipated parts of the draft no doubt are the provisions for the top management and how they are chosen. The publicized draft provides for an Executive board with the top leadership (Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Secretary General )are elected by delegates from ‘County Cricket Associations’ and a number of Directors such as the Development Director, a Director of Women’s Cricket (that must be a woman), an additional two members who will be assigned mandates after they are elected to the board, and a sort of gender balance executive because…you know gender balance.

As for how this board is chosen the delegates that elect the board are drawn from the ‘County Cricket Associations’ each with a limit of 5 delegates, by virtue of them being the ‘full members of Cricket Kenya,’ and allotted based on the basis of one delegate per three registered cricket clubs. Though not a departure from the previous system, this does seem to be an obvious effort to prevent Nairobi County, which presently has the vast majority of cricket clubs and schools in Kenya, excess influence over the national board.

Whether or not this will be the final form remains to be seen, as member of the public has until Wednesday 29th April to suggest changes to the draft, whose final form is scheduled for adoption by the end of May. After this, there will be elections to select a new Executive Board.

That could have been us (Reflecting on Ireland and Afghanistan’s Test Status)


On March 30th 2003, Kenya’s men’s national cricket team stood on the cusp of greatness. They were one win away from becoming the first African team, and the first associate to qualify for an ICC World Cup Final. They lost  the game to eventual runners up India. Even so it was meant to be a new dawn for the game of cricket in Kenya, and possibly the East Africa region.

Kenya's lap of honur
Kenyan players take a lap of honour on that historic evening in 2003 (Source: espncricinfo)

14 years and 3 months down the line, and it is Ireland and Afghanistan’s whose own fairy tales have resulted in a happy ending. the ICC has just confirmed that the two nations will become the board’s 11th and 12th full members. Thus completing their rise to the pinnacle of the game (test status). They are the first additions to this core of elite cricketing nations since Bangladesh in 2000

Kenya on the other hand have not graced a major ICC event since 2011. They may not even qualify for the tournament by which they will be able to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. They are not even in the Intercontinental Cup, a league through which teams hoping to prove their readiness for test status play in.

Back in 2003, when Kenya was considered the ‘next sure thing,’ cricket in Ireland was pretty much run as an amateur pursuit, while in Afghanistan it was the preserve of returning exiles of the recently toppled Taliban regime.

While the game in Kenya fell into decline, in Ireland and Afghanistan cricket continues from strength. Whereas the exposure of their 2003 success led to internal division and strife in Kenya, for Ireland and Afghanistan, every upset and achievement seems to have galvanized the game back home.

Where Kenya’s bid for test status, and now even ability to qualify for world cups is hamstrung by a shallow player pool. As noted by Cricinfo:

The vote is not just an endorsement of each country’s respective on-field talents but a seal of approval for efforts made in recent years to build up their domestic structures. In the last three years, both countries have started a multi-day competition with each receiving first-class designation from the ICC in the last year, a harbinger of Thursday’s Full Member affirmation.

With the cycles for both the Intercontinental Cup and World Cup in 2019 already too far gone to be reset, it seems the next opportunity to hop on board the test nation train won’t come around till at least 2023. Plenty of time for us to get our act together. If we actually pull together and get serious about saving cricket in Kenya.

‘Carry your Own Cross’ IOC tells Kenyan Runners on Doping


It turns out that the combined foot dragging, and last minute approach that Kenya’s government took to resolving the ADAK Bill was not without consequences after all. Kenya’s as yet ‘Non Compliant’ status withe the World Anti Doping Authority means that each and every, track and field competitor will have to be individually cleared by IAAF to participate in the summer Olympics.

More Hurdles in Kenyan Athlete’s path to Olympics (Source: Runblogrun)

In his own words IOC Chief Thomas Bach, while explaining conditions that Kenyan and Russian athletes will have to comply with to feature at the Olympics noted that

 “there were very serious doubts on the ‘presumption of innocence’ in those two countries (Kenya and Russia). Therefore, each athlete coming from these two countries will have to be declared eligible by their respective international federation following an individual procedure and evaluation of the situation. In this individual evaluation, tests from laboratories that are tainted or non-compliant cannot be taken into consideration. The respective international federation will have to take into account other reliable tests, that means international tests, or tests supervised by international authorities.”

That Kenya as a nation is very highly unlikely to be prohibited from competing at the Rio Olympics is a big relief, but the stringent conditions under which this will take place mean that Kenya’s medal hopefuls are not out of the woods yet. With regards to Kenya specific concerns the IOC supremo noted that

“In Kenya, there were administrative issues that are about to be resolved but on top of this we’ve had in the last couple of months a lack of funding and an absence of national testing. So Kenya is considered to be a country where the non-compliance affects the doping controls.”

With the ADAK bill, in its amended form passed after this announcement had been made, one hopes that what Kenya’s world beaters will only have to go through this grueling test of integrity once.

Qutes from IOC Chair sourced from : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/athletics/2016/06/21/russia-and-kenya-athletes-face-extra-drug-tests-ahead-of-rio-oly/

 

 

SuperSport giving Kenya Premier League a Raw Deal — kogalonation


Do Kenyans realize that SuperSport began sponsoring the Kenya Premier League in 2007? The initial sponsorship was to last four years and cost more than Kshs. 360m, or $5.5. Afterwards, the broadcast right holder promised to spend more than $11m on KPL, which was to be twice what it first offered. The new deal was […]

via SuperSport giving Kenya Premier League a Raw Deal — kogalonation

Kenya Stumble Down Under, Lose ground in Cricket World Cup Race


Say it with me slowly Rush-a-bhvar-dhan Nipun Patel. Quite the mouthful eh? The young left-hander (Rushab Patel for short) was also a handful for the Papua New Guinea bowlers, as he struck 95 runs in his International debut 50 overs debut. A knock that long term fans might say had shades of Hitesh Modi in his pomp.

Irfan Karim appeals during the PNG innings (Source: espncricinfo)

Unfortunately for Kenya his efforts came in a losing cause as Kenya slumped to a 2-0 loss to Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby. Even more unfortunate was the way Kenya lost its last 5 wickets for 13 runs in a match that Kenya had put themselves in a relatively good position to win.

The final result, a 21 run win for Papua New Guinea, to go with a six wicket win in the first match, in which Irfan Karim’s 73 was a lone bright sport in Kenya’s brittle batting.

Even during the warm up matches against Northern Territory of Australia, Kenya’s batsmen struggled to put together multiple meaningful partnerships, and that came back to haunt them in the WCLC matches.

Kenya now sit in 5th place, 4 points adrift of Holland in the World Cricket League Championship Table, with the league approaching its half way stage.

Kenya next play Hong Kong (with the venue yet to be decided) in November of this year. Though nominally home games for Kenya, the security issues Kenya faces mean that they may have to play their games in a neutral venue.

Given that Hong Kong sit in second place, and therefore hold the second of two qualifying slots for the qualifying tournament of the 2019 World Cup in England, winning these matches will go a long way to keeping Kenya’s world cup qualifying hopes alive.

Was it all in Vain? Kenya’s ADAK Bill insufficient to escape WADA Sanctions


Over the month of April Kenya’s parliament (both the National Assembly and the Senate), the Ministry of Sports, and the Presidency burned the midnight oil to pass the Anti Doping Authority of Kenya bill, as part of efforts to stave off the dreaded WADA ‘non-compliance’ status.

After its May 2nd meeting, in which this was among several items on the agenda, WADA decided to declare Kenya ‘non-compliant’ anyway. Reason being that the bill that was passed was described as ‘a total mess.’

Considering that two other deadlines had passed before Kenya finally met the third deadline, this decision is more of a shock than it probably should be.

This is a severe blow for the Olympic aspirations of a country, who in ~60 years of representation at the games only has one medal that did not come from track and field (RIP Robert Wangila).

David Rudisha’s 800m title defense could be jeopardized by the folly of others (Source: The UK Guardian Newspaper)

WADA’s ‘non-compliant’ recommendation will now pass to the International Olympic Committee, and the International Association of Athletics Federations, for a final decision on whether or not Kenya’s track and field athletes can show up at the Olympics or not.

If Kenya’s track and field contingent are absent from Rio 2016, then the nation’s  medal hopes will lie with an under-resourced and neglected boxing contingent, the Sevens rugby team, and a Hodge podge of individual practitioners of sports like shooting, archery, swimming etc and (if they make it through the last global qualifier) women’s volleyball.

In short, we will really be up against it

 

UPDATE!  The IAAF has stated that it will not bar Kenya from sending Athletes to the Olympics. Kenya has until the end of the year to rectify the parts of the ADAK bill that were found wanting

Going Down under: A Preview of Kenya’s WCLC matches against Papua New Guinea


After several months of inactivity, Kenya’s mens national cricket team is back in World Cricket League Division one action, with a pair of matches against Papua Ne Guinea at the end of May.

Since their last action (a 2-0 whitewash of Namibia on their own patch) a number of teams have overtaken them in the WCL standings, so Kenya go into the series in 4th place needing to win both games to get back to the top of the standings, and in pole position to qualify for the qualifying tournament of the 10 team 2019 World Cup in England

The Playing Squad (According to FB sources)

Rakep Patel (C)
Shem Obado Ngoche (VC)
Irfan Karim
Dhiren Ghondaria
Collins Obuya
Nelson Mandela Odhiambo
Nehemiah Odhiambo Ngoche
Sunny Ghatora
Rushab Patel
Karan Kaul
Elijah Otieno
Lucas Oluoch
Emmanuael Bundi
Maurice Ouma

The team will be coached by Thomas Odoyo, and his long time new ball partner Peter Ongondo

Alex Obanda misses out on selection (Source:The Star )

The squad features the return of Maurice Ouma, Lucas Oluoch and the potential debut for Sunny Ghatora, whose performances in club cricket seems to have gotten him a call up. On the flip side, Alex Obanda, and Narendra Kalyan have been ommitted while Hiren Varaiya, who stood in as captain in the Namibia tour is also left out.

With Rakep Patel and his Deputy captain Shem Ngoche returning to the helm of the team, as well as Cricket Kenya successfully resolving player contracts in an orderly fashion, it looks like Kenya will be going into this round of matches as focused on the actual cricket as they have been in a long time.

Papua New Guinea on the other hand are fresh from playing Ireland in a twenty20 as well as Intercontinental Cup matches. The Irish dominated the $ day match but papua Nrew Guinea were able to grab a consolation victory in a 2-1 loss in the t20s. They sit in  6th place, 2 points behind Kenya in the WCLC table.