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.