Cricket Kenya’s Alamo

In the year 1836, a battle was fort between American settlers and Mexican settlers over a fort in what is now

This commemorative coin, marking 100 years sin...
This commemorative coin, marking 100 years since Texas declared independence from Mexico, includes the phrase “Remember the Alamo”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

modern day Texas. Though the odds were against them , and in due course  they Americans lost what has now gone down in history as ‘The Battle of the Alamo‘ the outpouring support and the subsequent revenge mission is a big part not only in the US acquiring what is now its largest state geographically (Texas), and a massive part of the pride that residents of that state have in who they are to this day.

History aside all intents and purposes this qualifying edition is as important to the fate of Kenya’s national team as the said battle of the Alamo. In early January, Kenya’s youngest national captain will be leading Kenya’s national team. As i have pointed out in other posts, the outcome of Kenya’s attempts to qualify for this world cup will be felt, not just on the pitch but in the ability of Cricket Kenya to grow the game in the country.

So who has been tasked with the duty of making it happen? (world cup qualification) This is the list I have seen going around on social media:Rakep Patel (captain), Ragheb Aga, Duncan Allan, Irfan Karim, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Thomas Odoyo, Lameck Onyango, Elijah Otieno, Morris Ouma, Steve Tikolo, and Hiren Varaiya

What is surprising about this squad, is not so much who was selected, but who wasn’t. In terms of changes from the last squad (from the T20 World Cup Qualifiers) Lameck Onyango has been brought out of retirement, and Steve Tikolo is doubling up as interim head coach. Ignored were, Lucas Oluoch (a left arm fast medium bowler in pretty good form as I hear), Dominic Wesonga (an all rounder), and Tanmay Mishra (currently holder of the highest ODI batting average of all Kenyans) among others.

All three’s cricket careers have developed during the existence of Cricket Kenya, and their being overlooked (particularly Mishra over some small spat they should reasonably have gotten over by now) is worrying. Nevertheless, this squad must put all this aside for the moment and find a way to finish among the top two nations at the World Cup qualifiers,and hope that the result can reverberate in the same positive way that the Alamo did for Texas.

The #ICC Kenya should be pulling out of

Apparently when the team Kenya national team landed in India for the last 50 Over World Cup in 2011 they were swamped by local journalists who had mistaken a parliamentary motion to withdraw from the Rome statue and thus the International Criminal Court as a move to pull Kenya out of the International Cricket Council. As it was that was not the case and to date this blogger is not aware of any serious move to actually withdraw from the International Cricket Council (yes, Mr. Indian sports writer, the motion passed by parliament   a few months ago is about the same ICC from before not the cricket one)

Provocative title aside this post is about what this blogger feels is the way shifting tectonics in the priorities of the ICC plus the outmoded way it decides things means there is probably no reasonable expectation for country like Kenya to take the game of cricket to its maximum potential within the structures of the present ICC. Why am I saying this? The immediate reason is the decision to re-structure the 2014 T20 World Cup  to make it so the associates, who have already had to deal with numerous qualifying rounds to qualify for the tournament, have to go through yet another layer of qualifying within the tournament, to get to play with the permanent members. The full members qualify essentially are there because they are full members and full members are just entitled to everything (except Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. They are more semi than full members these days).

The in depth reasons is this blogger is convinced that given the kinds of decisions that the ICC has made, and continues to make over its associates and affiliates indicate that there is glass ceiling that is getting thicker and thicker between them and the full members. I believe that the root of this trend is sometime in the 1990s, when an influx of TV money from ODIs, and the structure of decision making meant that, giving out test status went from being rewarding an apprentice for hanging around and learning the ropes, to essentially thinner slices of money pie all around. Consider that to this blogger’s knowledge there is no set criteria for graduating from associate status to full membership, it is ultimately down to ¾ of sitting members welcoming you into the club.

The principal reason for the title of this blog’s title is the continued refusal of the ICC to reform to reflect the new paradigm it exists in fact I do not think it can if it wanted to. Consider that in 2011 the International Cricket Council ordered an independent governance review (called the Woolf Report  partly in the outrage against a botched attempt to straight throw associates out the World Cups outright, to look at ways of modernizing itself and keep the game relevant. To put it briefly, some of the big nations had one look at the recommendations probably went blue in the face and that is the last that has been heard about that pesky document. Or at least the radical parts of it

I know just now a big chunk of Cricket Kenya’s cricketing programs are funded by ICC grants and subsidies but surely when it is patently clear that the ICC sees no future in taking the game in any non-full member, to real maturity, heck they might secretly be trying shed ‘dead weight’ for all we know, shouldn’t Cricket Kenya consider learning to fish (and maybe get lucky and land a Nile perch) rather than waiting on the fisherman that only feels they are worth an occasional omena

Dear Jackie,

This is an open letter to the newly elected chairperson of Cricket Kenya.

First of all congratulations for coming through as the second ever chairperson of Cricket Kenya and first woman chairperson on a major Kenyan sports governing body. Another glass barrier broken for women in sports and management all over Kenya. Given the drama preceding this final vote, I’m just glad that hurdle and you can get on with 4 years of implementing your programme for cricket in Kenya. Niceties aside there is the very serious business of getting Kenyan cricket out of the funk it is currently in and back on to the path it left several years ago. To achieve this task there are a number of things this cricket mad blogger feels ought to take priority.

Firstly is unity, unity unity! And I’ll put it in two quotes. A house divided against itself cannot stand – Jesus Christ. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach – Sun Tzu (The Art of War). For its entire history Cricket Kenya seems to have been dogged by the ghosts of the drama, intrigue and disunity that eventually killed off the Kenya Cricket Association. Players and coaches I’ve talked to brought it up, It’s been repeated in several interviews in the mainstream press. Even the former Chief Executive, Tom Sears was quite happy to lay the blame of his inability to get things done with the old pre-elections board’s bickering. Whatever dog you may or may not have in these fights, the fact is that the people with responsibility expend way too much sweat on them rather than stuff that has real potential to address the bigger problems in Kenyan cricket and that is really quite sad. From an outsider perspective it looks like a family who’s members are willing to burn down their house and sleep in the rain because they can’t agree how to fix a leaking roof. Player strikes, court cases, vanishing accountants etc, alot has come out in the press that just doesn’t make for happy reading. So long as whatever the root cause of this isn’t cured or at least defused, then I fear that a lot of precious time is going to be lost that Kenya really doesn’t have any more and whatever grand plans you have may never materialize.

The second thing is outreach. It amazes me that after being the first sport to embrace de-segregation in the 60s, cricket in Kenya is still somewhat of an infant, compared to likes of soccer, rugby and even hockey, when it comes to the size of its player base. This blogger is aware that Nairobi Province did take cricket to some public high schools in its territory, but that never quite matured into a th kind of of inter-schools competition now flourishing in several other team sports working through the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association. Rift Valley, Coast and Nyanza have also had a go, with various programmes of their own, with varying degrees of success. I believe that as overall chair of of Cricket Kenya, your office would do well to provide a unifying theme to all these separate moves that their effect on growing the player base in the game of cricket in Kenya can be amplified. There are also the several cricket academies that former payers are setting up nowadays, Rajab Ali’s being the most recent. They need to be co-opted, but not bullied, into one network with a single set standards, accountability, maybe even resources flowing from your board. I Whilst they are likely doing quite a bit on their own, I feel setting a beacon or standard for them to aim for (see the Sun Tzu quote above) would make them more effective.

Then there is the matter of our national teams. Our senior mens team was undoubtedly the strongest outside the full member, but since 2003 the ground has shifted massively from underneath them, and from the past few rounds of World Cup qualifiers, and Intercontinental Cup matches, they hardly qualify to be a big fish on the continent never mind amongst fellow associates. There’s been alot of drama during that time as well, but rather than go off into who did what who, or did whatever to the other, I’m going to focus on what must happen now. The players need to be insulated from board room politics, plain and simple. You can’t build big batting partnerships, or bowling units that hunt as a pack on the field, when there’s all manner of funny-funny characters spreading funny-funny stories in the camp. Help Collins Obuya and Robin Brown do their their job by giving them final authority on team matters. That way they can get on with bringing home the victories necessary to help you convince the big fish of this world that they are gaining something if they opt to pass through Nairobi on their next Africa tour. The women’s team, and the youth teams, generally need more players brought in and playing the game. Their success is the future of the game.

Finally there is the matter of money. This blogger reckons Cricket Kenya needs to broaden its sources of revenue. This business of putting every egg in the basket called ICC grants isn’t sustainable. Not because the money is small, but because the ICC’s just not structured to encourage its minnows to grow into anything more than a side show for the big players like England, India and Australia where it receives tv and marketing revenues in the billions of dollars. See the several attempts to change World cup qualifying and format because the wrong team got knocked out.

Anyway, my final word is best of luck with the task ahead of you and may you be the best manager that sports in Kenya has ever had.

#EAPL II: A short preview.

It’s here! It has snuck up on unsuspecting Kenyans (starting in the middle of an olympics so even fewer notice) again! It’s the second edition of the East Africa Premier League and Cup, and it kicks off on August 4th. For those off you who missed edition one, the Nile Knights of Uganda, to the T20 Premier League, only to be stopped by Kenya’s Kongonis in the Final of the One Day competition. Here’s hoping that this round, the finals don’t get postponed till 3 months later over rain. Cynicism aside, this blogger feels that having got over the hump of getting such a venture off the ground at all last year, this competition will only be looking to get better and better. Right, into the nitty gritty of this year’s competition. The biggest change, so far announced on the field, in the replacement of the franchise Nairobi Buffaloes, with Kanbis. It seems the Kanbis Cricket Club honchos weren’t going to let some of their NPCA stars continue to shine for rival teams at East Africa any longer and It’s no suprise to me that the heart of this new franchise (Rakep Patel, Rajesh Bhudiya, Ramesh Mepani) is essentially those of its members who made the biggest impact in last year’s tournament. The biggest victim of this ‘poaching’ is Kongonis. Without the bulk of the players who made them such a formidable batting machine last year, they’ll be looking to at the likes of Nick Oluoch, to come good and back up the talent of newly acquired Collins Obuya and Alex Obanda. Their bowling, especially in the spin department, looks as deadly as ever with Abdul Rehman, returning to partner Kenya international Shem Obado. The other ‘victim’ of Kanbis’s wrath, Rift Valley Rhinos, have kept faith in the core of last year’s team, with the impressive Mitesh Sanghani, Nelson Odhiambo, and the veteran experience of Peter Ongondo, and the inspirational leadership of Hiren Varaiya making for a potent bowling unit. Last but not least, is Coast Pekee. Having endured a less than memorable outing last year, they have made the most radical changes, of the Kenya based franchises, to their roster. James Kamande, and Irfan Karim head hunted to strengthen the batting whilst Alfred Luseno and Nehemiah Odhiambo will be expected to add muscle to a bowling attack That’s a who’s who of Kenya youth system. At this point, this blogger has not been able to find out what the Ugandan franchises, The Warriors and the Knights, are up to, or indeed a final fixture list so as soon as I can, I’ll post it all up here. Anyway, what

Cricket Kenya announces Central Contracts for 2012-13

Cricket Kenya has just published the list of 20 players who will be contracted to the national team for 2012 and 2013. Unlike recent times this went off without a hitch and with the appointment of a national team coach one hopes it’ll be straight to work for a core of players who have a huge responsibility meeting fan expectations. The newest face on the list is the young Emmanuel Bundi Ringeera. He becomes the first player from the an under 13s team Cricket Kenya put together some years back to complete the journey to full national team colours. Other young player include up and coming all rounder Duncan Allan, left arm pace bowler Lucas Oluoch and keeper Peter Kituku. On the other end of the age scale, Alfred Luseno is retained but David Obuya is dropped. The full list of contracted players is as follows: Ragheb Aga, Duncan Allan, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Irfan Karim, Ibrahim Akello, Alfred Luseno, Peter Kituku, Dominic Wesonga, Morris Ouma, Lucas Oluoch, Elijah Otieno, Rakep Patel, Hiren Varaiya, Seren Waters, Emmanuel Bundi.

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.

The East Africa Cup and Premier League: Season 1 Review

Really this post should have come out last week and on blogger but if they do not like folks posting via Mobile phones then I’m not gonna let that hamper me.

Anyway, the inaugural season of the Cricket Kenya Run East Africa Cup and Premier League came to a close (well sort of) last week with only one of Kenya’s four representatives (Kongonis, in the 50 over E.A Cup) vying for glory.  Never mind the number of hurt egos in senior management this might cause, this should not cause the head honchos in Cricket Kenya to wrap things up and let the idea die (like the Sahara Elite League) it should be an eye opener to something that I reckon has been an elephant in the room for cricket in Kenya for the longest time.

I’ve been of the opinion that Kenya does not have the depth of playing resources to build the kind of team that we need to compete at this level never mind to fulfill the ambitions many of us still have for the game. We may have got away with it in the 1990s, but these days there are at least 4 Associates who by some lucky accident involving work permit court case on a handball player, and that whilst we were chasing each other up and down in court they were getting their youth set ups in order, have invariably more seasoned and exposed teams that we do. Ireland, Holland Scotland, and to a lesser extent Namibia are reaping the rewards of getting involved in competitions of Test nations (England and South Africa) and so on a certain level their national teams come more battle hardened than the best prodigies that come out the N.P.C.A. So hopefully these competitions will address that in the medium term. That aside we need loads more schools and institutions playing cricket so the level of competition needed to get into one of Kenya’s franchises rises and thus the quality of players they start with improves I’ve blogged enough about this in other posts so on to other matter

Off the field the support provided by SuperSport, Crown Berger, and various other corporates in a fantastic vote of confidence, hopefully the goodwill can be maintained going forward.

On a final note, maybe they should consider starting the tournament a month or so earlier so we don’t finish smack dab in the middle of a rainy season 🙂