Previewing the World Cricket League


This year in world Cricket the finest exponents of the ODI format will be in Australia and New Zealand, to contest the ICC 50 Overs World Cup. The 10 full members of the ICC will be joined by 4 associates, of which for the first time in 19 years Kenya will not be among them.

Kenya must instead focus on the long journey of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup (assuming that the rug isn’t pulled out from under associates), and that journey begins in Namibia on the 17th of January 2015.

The 2nd Division of the World Cricket League kicks off with: Kenya, Namibia (hosts), Uganda, Netherlands, Nepal, and Canada. These teams will be contesting two promotion slots to Division 1 of the WCL, and a slot in the final round of World Cup Qualifying, (assuming no dramatic changes) for the 2019 World Cup.

The final two slots in the next round of intercontinental Cup First Class league, and a shot at qualifying for a test match in 2019, will also be at stake at this tournament.

Three of Kenya’s 5 opponents in this tournament have previous World Cup experience, and Uganda, our local rivals; have proven a stubborn opponent in recent times. Nepal is also on the up and should be taken very seriously. In terms of history, this is probably the toughest WCL Division 2 tournament that has come together in the history of the World Cricket League.

Irfan Karim’s form will be key to Kenya’s chances (Source:ulizalinks.co.ke)

This tournament will not be won on past reputation but on which teams bring their A game to the actual games. A less than full strength team, team exposed by Pakistan A, in the team’s last outing. With the Kanbis duo of Rakep and Narendra Patel, Collins Obuya, and Irfan Karim back in the fold, there will be lots more fire power in the batting than the team which went to visit Pakistan.

Most of the team will also have been part of the group which visited Namibia late last year, and will be very familiar with the conditions, as well as most of the opponents they will be facing.

*Kenya squad for ICC World Cricket League Division 2:
Rakep Patel (c), Elijah Otieno, Alex Obanda, Jadavji Bhimji, **Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim(wk), Lucas Oluoch, James Ngoche, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Shem Obado Ngoche, Collins Obuya, Nelson Odhiambo, Narendra Patel, Gurdeep Singh.

Notes:
* There is quite a bit of contradictory information regarding Kenya’s squad to the WCL Div II on multiple credible cricket websites
*Injured on club duty and replaced by James Kamande (Daily nation report)

Reflecting on Kenya and Pakistan’s recent Cricket games.


Over the past few weeks, Kenya and Pakistan engaged one another in a series of cricket matches. Kenya’s u19 boys’ team hosted their counterparts for a 5 match ODI series in Nairobi, whereas the men’s senior team traveled to Pakistan to play their ‘A’ team in a series. Both series resulted in hopelessly one sided white washes for the Pakistan teams

A poster for the Kenya v. Pakistan A matches (source:Todaynews pakistan)

On the side of the u19 games, the one sidedness of the results was to be expected, given the huge difference in class between the two countries’ youth development systems. For those not in the know, Pakistan’s u19 team’s world cup record reads as follows: World Champions twice (2004, 2006) losing finalists thrice (2014, 2010, 1988) and semifinalists twice (2008, 2000). They have NEVER missed a World Cup and their worst ever placing is 8th overall.

Kenya’s u19 team on the other hand have not qualified for the sport’s world cup since 2002, and their best placing was when a group with led by the young Collins Obuya, Morris Ouma and Kalpesh Patel managed to finish 5th in the plate competition in 2000.

Basically, the games were not likely to be close contests, and they were not. As the boys set out to break Kenya’s 12 year duck at World Cup Appearances my hope is that they looked what the Pakistani boys were doing right and borrowed some of their methods.

This blogger also hopes that the administrators also used the opportunity to pick the brains of the Pakistani management on how to build a world class cricket development system.

On the side of the senior mens’ team, the nature of the defeats was a lot more disappointing. Some numbers to put the scope of the performance in perspective. Kenya’s leading run scorer was Nelson Odhiambo, with a total of 84 runs across his 5 innings, not in one innings but for the whole tour. By the way he was also the team’s leading wicket taker with 5 wickets across the 5 games.

Kenya missed most of their top order batsmen (Rakep Patel, Irfan Karim, Collins Obuya, among others were not available). The only ‘seasoned’ batsmen who traveled were Alex Obanda, and Morris Ouma. Unfortunately neither was able to fire, and the other batsmen, on their first exposure to cricket at this level couldn’t pick up the slack.

The bowlers were significantly better at competing with the Pakistan ‘A’ team batting, but when push came to shove it just seemed that the hosts always had an extra gear, they could switch into and just take the game away from the Kenyans.

This blogger speculates that this difference is partly down to the competitive edge that the Pakistanis have developed in their players from the competitiveness of the cricket in Pakistan as a whole.

In the immediate future, Kenya might not have to play such difficult opposition in the upcoming World Cricket League matches, plus they will have a full complement of players.

However, Cricket Kenya must look at the results as a reminder that the game in Kenya just isn’t mobilizing the kind of player resource needed to take us back to the ‘glory days,’ of regular upsets, world cup qualifications.

Of Backs Mutually Scratched: Kenya v. Pakistan 2014


Tomorrow (Sunday the 7th of December) is the first of five matches between Kenya’s u19  cricket team, and their counterparts from the proud cricketing nation of Pakistan.

The Pakistan u19 team, are in Nairobi all of this week for a series of one day matches to help our boys find the level to break a 12 year duck, of qualifying for the u19 Cricket World Cup.

The publicity poster for the u19 matches (from Kenyacricket.com)

After that our own senior national team will jet out to Pakistan, to face Pakistan ‘A’ team, in a series of matches, ostensibly to help the Kenya men team prepare for the World Cricket league. The matches will be ‘45’ overs aside matches, but that’s not the crux of the issue.

That one of the leading nations in the sport, and home of some of the most gifted, exciting, even controversial players that the game of cricket has ever known, has suddenly felt sufficiently philanthropic enough to feel they have to schedule loads of fixtures against some down on their luck, drifting into obscurity associate country got me wondering. What’s the angle?

Tell us Madam Chair, How did you pull this off? (picture from The Standard)

Consider this, even during Kenya’s heyday in the early to mid 2000s, they only actually managed two invitations, to play against test nations not named either Zimbabwe or Bangladesh.

Since 2007 they have only managed 2 matches (of any kind) against a major cricketing power (South Africa), outside of actual World Cup matches. Even then it was only after Cricket Kenya had to ‘cost-share’ the expenses with the hosts.

Since 2007, Kenya have only managed 2 T20 matches against Bangladesh, who up to that point were our most consistent rival on the field.

One thing that these two cricketing nations, Kenya and Pakistan, have in common is their games are suffering from the insecurity in their respective countries. This insecurity is as a direct result of the war on terror.

Just as Kenya shares a lengthy, hard to police border with Somalia, a nation rife with Islamic extremism, Pakistan has a very long border with Afghanistan,  across which dangerous extremists have operated. Both nations also have native populations of disaffected youths, ripe for radicalization into extremism. The consequence for both is noth get severely targeted by these extremist groups’ terror attacks.

Pakistan’s national team has not been able to play so much as a single game in front of their own fans, since an incident in 2009, where their visitors, Sri Lanka, were ambushed by armed gun men allied to extremist Islam.

Similarly, with the spike in terror attacks in Kenya (many claimed by Al Shabaab), our own national team has had to deal with the ICC shifting several key World Cup Qualifying, and Intercontinental Cup home matches to neutral venues, due to security concerns.

The need to  ease a few concerns with the ICC, over the safety of cricketers in the two countries, is clearly something which would be boosted by the two nations, actually successfully hosting a national team without any kind of incident. Perhaps it is this confluence of needs that made all this possible. Maybe I’m reading too much into a pair of simple routine tours, between to cricketing nations, like any other.

 

 

Kenya tour to Namibia: A Few Reflections


Kenya’s men’s national team should be back in the country from a tour of Namibia any day now. The official purpose of the tour was Kenya Select XI v. Namibia ‘A’ in a 4 match ODI series. The final result was a 2-2 split between Kenya Select and Namibia ‘A’, with the 4th match being a comprehensive 125 run victory over a tired Kenya team.

That match aside the guys were pretty competitive throughout the series. Rakep Patel and Alex Obanda in particular were in top form on the side of the batsmen, while the bowlers were generally able to keep the team in the game in all 4 contests.

Rakep Patel batting in a practice session . (Source: sporton.co.ke)

One of the key aims of this tour, one presumes would be to gauge, the strength of Kenya against one of their key rivals for promotion out of the World Cricket League Division II.

On the whole, the Kenya team selected were very competitive, against a Namibia team, that tend to blow hot and cold at WCL leagues, so I wouldn’t read too much into how this reflects on Kenya’s own preparations for the same.

The team will not call it a day just yet. They will now head out to Pakistan, to take on a Pakistan ‘A’ team in a series of one day matches in that country (more on that later).Pakistan ‘A’ should provide a sterner test of Kenya’s performance levels, given the probability that the teams Kenya will face will be full of players, on the fringes of Pakistan’s World Cup plans, who will be desperate to prove a point to their national selectors.

Kenya tour to Namibia: A quick Preview


Kenya’s men’s national cricket team is in Namibia this week for a brief warm up tour.  The tour is the first major cricket action for the boys, as they prepare fro next year’s World Cricket League Division II, a tournament which is the first of many hurdles which the team will have to clear, as they set about recovering their lost ODI status and the prestige that came with it.

Kenya’s Nehemiah Odhiambo, bowls in a previous match against Namibia (Source: The Namibian)

 

The World Cricket League, for those of you not in the know, is a series of tournaments managed by the International Cricket Council, as a means of stratifying the various associates, and affiliate members (the teams which don’t have Test Status) , based on the strength of their national teams.  They also double up as a (very convoluted) World Cup Qualifying system.

Since they were launched in 2007, up until very recently, Kenya was in the top division of the World Cricket League, and will need to finish among the to two of the upcoming Division II tournament, to bounce back at the first time of asking.

Back to the tour in question. Initially, Kenya were supposed to have worked out a deal to visit Pakistan and play their ‘A’ team, but that had to be postponed  due to security concerns.

Be that as it may, now that they are playing Namibia instead, this will be a good opportunity to get a feel of the WCL Div II host’s strengths, and  the conditions ahead of the actual tournament. Absolutely nothing should be taken for granted, given how stiff the competition will be once the main tournament actually happens.

As the team gets ready to play, here is hoping them success and that the feed back they get proves useful to winning the WCL DIV II next year.

14 Years and Counting


I don’t normally post on Provincial (or county)level tournaments, on account of the fact that I prefer national level domestic competitions as a measure of the strength of the game in question. However with this post I make an exception.

Over the weekend Kanbis Sports Club defeated Sikh Union to win the Nairobi Province Super League for the 14th time in a row.  In the absence of an East Africa Premier League, or Cup this year (or for the immediate near future), this makes them the best domestic cricket club in the country right now.

A Kanbis Wicket-keeper showing the kind of focus that makes champions (Source:Sporton.nation.co.ke)

Given that the nations team captain as, well as the bulk of players turning out for Kenya’s youth teams over the past few years are Kanbis players, it further shows how much more dependent the game is dependent on them than ever before.

Before them, Swamibapa (Kanbis’s most fierce rivals by the way) had made similar run of dominance of the game, and it was through their scouting programme that the bulk of Kenya’s legendary team at the 2003 World Cup was scouted and introduced to the game.

Is this kind of one team domination a good thing or not for the game? Well it depends with what the dominant team chooses to do with that dominance. Swamibapa, as I stated made their prominence into a platfo0rm to fuel a ‘golden age’ for Kenyan Cricket as a whole. During Kanbis’ reign however (mostly due to things they can’t be blamed for) Kenya’s cricket  as a sport has suffered a crisis.

What can Kanbis’ success teach the rest of the game? Will the likes of Swamibapa, Sikh Union, Premier, Stray Lions or a new entity that has not come to the fore yet take this challnege to catch up with and overtake Kanbis? Will their model be studied and applied by aspiring sport organisations in and outside of Nairobi? Will their winning culture translated to whichever national teams their players get called up to?

I am hoping the answer to most of these questions is yes, because, Kenyan cricket at all levels needs it

Kenya 2014 Cricket Tour to S0uth Africa: A Review


It has been a good week for Kenya’s men’s’ national team. In fact it has been a very good week. In my previous post I previewed the participation of the men’s national team in the Africa 6s challenge and the ACA cup. So now it only makes sense to review their performance in said tournaments.

Kenya made it to the final of the 6s challenge, after beating Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda, only tome up short against South Africa in the final. In the round robin Africa Cup, their three wins, tied match (there are no draws in limited overs cricket), and one loss were enough to win the tournament ahead of Uganda and a Zimbabwe Invitation XI.

The successes of the tour were built on the fine form of the batting line up. Collins Obuya’s 127 against South Africa’s Invitation XI, was the cherry on the cake, as he Rakep Patel, Narendra Patel, Alex Obanda, and Morris Ouma, all managed 50+ scores at some point in the ACA cup and the 6s challenge. On the whole the batting unit showed a resolve and determination which has not always been there in the past two or three years for Kenya.

The most encouraging thing was Alex Obanda bullied most of the attacks he faced while opening Kenya’s batting (Source:Streamjunction.blogspot.com)

The bowlers were also, for the most part incisive. Except for the ‘death overs’ when, it seems a slight lack of execution meant opponent like South Africa and Namibia were able to force the pace, despite being down to their last two batsmen. The Ngoche brothers (Nehemiah, Shem and James were the star performers in this regard)

Nonetheless on the whole the tour was on the whole, a plus for the men’s team, and bodes well for the World Cricket league Division II matches in February next year. The competition will be stronger, as in addition to Namibia, Netherland and Canada (teams with recent World Cup exposure) will be there and they will be contesting two promotion slots to get back into Division I, and the Intercontinental Cup.

Kenya Cricket Tour to South Africa 2014 Preview


Well, in all the hub bub about the changes, or no changes at the top, it almost escaped this blogger that the Kenya national Cricket team will be in South Africa for the Inaugural Africa sixes challenge, and the re-launched Africa Cricket Cup. Kenya will face South Africa, as well as Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The 6s challenge is a 6-a-side (5 overs an innings) format game, while the Africa Cricket Cup will be the standard 50 overs a side games.The sixes challenge will run over the course of the weekend (6-7th September 2014) and the Cricket Cup will run the week after (8-13th September 2014). These tournaments for all intents and purposes should be considered as a stepping stone in preparing for the Division II World Cricket League tournament, set for Namibia in February next year.

Aside from Captaining, Rakep Patel’s Batting will be crucial to Kenya’s success (Source: thestar.co.ke)

The 6s challenge is organised by Global Softech (a South African corporate), while the Africa Cricket Association is in charge of the Cricket Cup. The Cricket Cup has been brought back (Possibly) in light of how similar tournaments in Asia and Europe have been so successful in stimulating cricket growth in hitherto weak associate countries like: Ireland, Netherlands, Nepal, Afghanistan and even Hong Kong, whether or not it will catch on is the big test.

From the squad, Kenya will be sending what appears to be a full strength squad to contest the two tournaments. Narendra Patel is the only brand new cap, while Dhiren Ghondaria and Gurdeep Singh hang on to their slots, having both joined the national team in the last year.Also of note is the return of left arm pace bowlers Lucas Oluoch, while the highest profile absences are that of Tanmay Mishra and Irfan Karim.

As for the opposition, the information I can dig up indicates that for the most part Uganda, and probably Tanzania, and Namibia will be fielding the full national team, while I have no idea what the South Africa and Zimbabwe teams (who are currently in Zimbabwe for a tri-series with Australia) will look like. Either way, given the relative depth of the game in these two countries relative to the rest of the competition, whatever squad they field will definitely be very strong.

The Kenya team: Rakep Patel (c), Shem Obado Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nelson Odhiambo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Narendra Patel, Morris Ouma (wk.), Elijah Otieno, Hiren Varaiya, James Ngoche, Dhiren Ghondaria, Lucas Oluoch, Gurdeep Singh,

Coach: Steve Tikolo
Strength & Conditioning/Manager: Joseph Asichi,
Assistant Coach: Thomas Odoyo,
Physiotherapist: Joseph Mutisya

Jackie Returns and other stories


Having rushed to do a piece on the reports that Jackie Jan Mohammed was stepping down as chairperson of Cricket Kenya, I am now rushing to do a piece indicating that said resignation has been withdrawn. Strictly speaking, this is just a ‘rumour’ on social media as neither the mainstream press, not Cricket Kenya has published confirmation of the event on the public domain through any of their official channels.

Guess who’s back! (picture from: gulf news)

It seems that the board simple was not ready to move on without Mrs Mohammed and persuaded her to hand in in there for the time being. The decision is said to have been confirmed at a full board meeting in Mombasa a few days ago.

While all this was happening (or not happening) we are now into the month of September without any communication (even of the rumour variety) as to what the fate of the East Africa Premier League and Cup. Over the past few years, they have normally been held in the August-September period, following the conclusion of the provincial leagues.

It is through these competitions that the likes of Irfan Karim, and Lucas Oluoch really burst on to the limelight. Have they been postponed? Cancelled? Or are they being staged, as you read this, in secret at an undisclosed location? What is going on?

Anyway, be that as it may be, the ICC has finalised structure of the new World Cricket Leagues, through which Kenya will begin the path back to relevance on the world stage. The men’s team will play Namibia, Canada, the Netherlands, and two promoted teams from Division 3 in Namibia, in February next year.

The top two teams will be promoted to Division One, from whence the qualification for various World Cups will be contested, as well as becoming party of the newly restructured Intercontinental Cup, from whence they should get a shot at test cricket.

I’m not going to dwell so much on previewing this upcoming tournament, except to say that on recent head to head records against the opposition at this tournament, Kenya are not the favourites to come through.

Anyway, that is the latest in Cricket in Kenya, maybe some of the question raised will be answered, maybe they won’t. That’s life

Change Cometh, and Cricket Kenya must deal with it


Cricket Kenya has a new chairperson. This blogger understands that Jackie Jan Mohammed has very recently stepped down from the position of Chairperson of Cricket Kenya, citing personal reasons, and her deputy chairperson, one Mr. Anil Patel has taken over.

To the best of my knowledge she was the only woman to have ever headed a national sports body in Kenyan history, and will likely the only one who may have the privilege and responsibility to do so for the foreseeable future.

Jackie Janmohammed (Source: imgci.com)

It would not be fair to pass judgment on Jackie’s tenure at the head of Cricket Kenya without first coming to grips with the situation the organization was in leading up to her tenure. Her reign began as part of a settlement to put a stop to a bunch of litigation that had dragged the process of replacing Samir Inamdar, her predecessor, out for two years.

Her predecessor had himself been come to be in charge of Cricket Kenya at the tail end of even more litigation, through which the old Kenya Cricket Association was dissolved and replaced by Cricket Kenya.
In between there were, a whole bunch of other intrigues that saw Kenya’s senior players on strike on several occasions, the site for a proposed national academy repossessed and turned into part of a super highway, and pretty much all structure in the game slip away
In that context her time could therefore be seen as the facing the consequences for the past decade’s stagnation.

On the field Kenya’s men’s national team failed to qualify for the 50 over World Cup for the first time since 1992, were relegated out of Division 1 of the World Cricket League, and lost the One Day International Status, upon which a lot of the support that Cricket in Kenya was getting from the International Cricket Council was being channeled.

However, on the domestic, though she did preside over the settling in and expansion of The East Africa Premier League and Cup, to the extent that the T20 competition was even able to attract some serious international level talent in its most recent edition.

Both tournaments have been in a way ‘cursed’ by their own success, as the extra revenues generated seem to have just become another avenue for the same old back door power games, and intrigue rather than a vehicle for the overall growth of the game.

Her successor, Mr. Anil Patel, has a very full plate once he gets into the swing of things. The last time I checked, Cricket Kenya did not have a Chief Executive Officer, the East Africa Leagues season is around the corner, and the board is certainly looking at a cut in funding from the ICC, as well as a truncated schedule of fixtures (from the ICC’s programs for associates) to keep the national teams at all levels active.

So in the short term those will be the challenges.
The national team have February’s World Cricket league Division II to begin their rehabilitation, and earn the right to be in the next edition of the Intercontinental Cup.

The women’s and youth national teams do not even have the certainty of that, until the full implications of the cuts by the ICC to regional youth and women’s cricket become fully known, at least.
In the medium to long term there is continuing to build trust among the corporates and institutions that have invested in Kenyan cricket so far. There is the need to work out how to get additional resources from wherever and whomever they can get onto the band wagon of making Kenyan cricket grow.

And of course, the resident pachyderm in the building called Kenya’s tiny player base. I have called for this many time before and will call for it again. Cricket Kenya needs to get a formula to get cricket into public schools and institutions in a sustainable way. We are talking about getting a portion of the ~97% of school going children countrywide.

That is a story for another day.  For now, its to wish Mr Patel, and the remnant of the Cricket Kenya board installed in 2012, all the best as they steer the game forwards.