#EACC: A Few Observations

For those of you not in the ‘cricket in Kenya loop,’ the third edition of the East Africa Competitions is well underway. Rising stars Chuis (who are they?) won EAPL III, and are among the four teams set to contest the East Africa Cup semi-finals this weekend. This blog is not a review of matches played so far, or a preview of the matches set to come. It is a number of observations about the EA competitions; particularly this year’s which I reckon are worth putting together in a post of their own.

New identities

The Kenyan franchises have had an identity make over. Last season’s Kongonis, Kanbis Tigers (who themselves had come in to replace the old Nairobi Buffaloes), Coast Pekee (my favourite franchise name ever) and Rift Valley Rhinos, were scrapped. They were replaced by Sameer Simba, Express Ndovu, I&M Nyati, and the new EAPL champions Rising Stars Chuis. From here this move looks like it came straight out of the Indian Premier League play book. This was largely brought about by the change in franchise incorporations that saw CK, apparently have corporates take over control of a franchise, and interestingly enough it meant that, Rift Valley and Coast lost their teams as for this edition all the teams were based in Nairobi. Was it because there wasn’t enough interest from companies based in these two regions to get a franchise Was it because they simply didn’t have enough muscle to grab a team in the bidding, or whatever system was used to give the teams out, or were they simply not asked? What does that say about cricket outside of Nairobi? The Ugandan teams o the other hand, continued to exist pretty much unchanged in virtually all aspects as they were right from the origins of this tournament. At the end of the day these teams have reportedly been the most consistently good through the competition so far.

Home is where the Heart action is

Unlike previous editions, where the teams were all over and everywhere playing one another in home and away games in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kampala, this year’s EACC saw all the action condensed to a grand total of 3 venues in Nairobi: The Nairobi Club, Simba Union and Nairobi Jafferies. This means the Uganda teams have to hang around in Nairobi, for the entire 6 week duration of the tournaments and whatever fan base they had built back home will either jack to trek all the way to the city in the Sun, or get access to Super Sport to see any action. It also means that up county folk like me, who might have been thinking about dashing down to Nakuru, from Nyahururu, or say Mombasa from Malindi, or any such locale to catch what would have been ‘the local team’ live in action will either have to dig a little deeper to go down to Nairobi, or forget about the whole thing. It’s a pity, but probably forced out of economic and time considerations. Oh well, the key thing is there seem to be real money from local corporates flowing into this venture which is a really positive sign, right?

Friends from afar

Bringing in stars from Pakistan to grace the EAPL, a stroke of genius on the part of whoever put it together and their employer ought to give them a big bonus. Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Sami, and Abdul Razzaq, participated in the tournament this year, made big impact, and hopefully it gets the other franchises to also go shopping for international talent to keep raising the standard of play. This will, if properly regulated go a long way in enhancing the EACC’s stated goals of giving local lads better seasoning before they go out to represent Kenya.

It’s broke, don’t fix it?

There is one thing I’m surprised hasn’t changed, or rather has not been addressed is the lack of a coherent ‘get the word out’ marketing on the part of Cricket Kenya. Sure they have yet another brand spanking new website, which so far is proving to their best managed so far, but aside from the occasional match reports its been fairly hard from anyone but the most hard core, will go to any length to get a fix, cricket addicts to find out match results, see scorecards and assess who is really standing out *cough*Irfan Karim*cough*. What we are getting, aside from the nominal reports in the papers, is pretty much not going to cut it to grow, not merely sustain, but really grow interest in cricket in Kenya as these competitions have the capacity to do. Is this still the official twitter handle? If you want scorecards or any such thing then that is another story. The Official Facebook page(s) I looked up this morning for both Cricket Kenya and the EACC competitions I can find haven’t been touched in months, most of the info being posted is from diehard fans such as myself, and Cricket Kenya is not making it easy to get this info to begin with. For me that kind of social media policy is like buying a fancy new suit, and then simply never changing out of it for any reason forever and ever amen!

All in all

Cricket Kenya has made some really bold changes to the EACC, and good on them for doing so, because they will really help build this competition and make it more durable than some of the other IPL copycat tournaments of late. I can appreciate that to make omelettes you have to break some eggs; my hope is that some of the stuff from the older editions of the EACC can be brought back in time. I really am interested in having an EAPL team at my door step to prevaricate about going to see.

#EACL Season II:The winners and losers.

The finals of both the East Africa Cup and Premier League were played. For the winners of the Premier League, Rwenzori Warriors there was the relief of finally coming good in a finals, and for the winners of the Cup, Coast Pekee, it was the culmination of a transformation of the franchise from chumps to champs. There’s already quite a bit on what actually transpired in the finals themselves, if you know where to look, so this post won’t dwell so much on that. What I’ll do is to concentrate on an overall review of the Kenyan franchises in the competitions overall.

Kenya Kongonis

Coming into the season as defending champions. Their record in that competition, 1 win and four losses on the other hand did not not really do justice for them. In the Premier League, however they were much more a force to reckon with ultimately overcoming 2 losses and an abandonment to come within 3 wickets and 4 balls of winning the entire thing. Indeed overall, their average in the t20, 170.2 runs per innings leading up to the finals, was much higher than the 136.4 they averaged in the 50 over cup competition. The biggest positive for Kongonis is the continuing flow of talent from the club into the franchise, with talents such as the Rudd brothers more than coping with the added pressure of East Africa competitions. This ultimately a good thing for Kenyan cricket.

Kanbis Tigers

Running a franchise in the East Africa Cricket Leagues, was new ground for Kanbis Cricket Club. Having pretty much taken over at the Nairobi level, Kanbis seemed to in out of their way to bring back the key pieces from this dominance to try their hand at a higher level. The result was 2 semifinals from finishing 2nd in the Premier League and 4th in the Cup. They were ably led from the front by Rakep Patel. His aggressive batting and cunning off spin was the foundation around which the likes of Vinod Rabadia, Rajesh Bhudiya and Ramesh Mepani worked their magic. As with Kongonis all these are a part of their parent clubs own player development systems. With a bit of exposure in this competition it is hard to see this franchise not winning trophies in the near future. Together with Kongonis this blogger hopes the results on the field can inspire more institutions in Kenya to embed cricket in youth development.

Rift Valley Rhinos

This season was a real struggle for the Rhinos, who together with Coast were the two province backed teams in the competition. Despite some valiant backs-to-the-wall performances by the bowlers in both Cup and Premier League, their batting generally came up short. They finished the Premier League bottom without a win and 5th in the Cup as a result of wins against Kanbis and Coast. This blogger hopes that they come back stronger next season for the sale of the project the Rift Valley Cricket Association has began in the vastest region in the country.

Coast Pekee

Last season’s whipping boys, this franchise, more than any other impressed this blogger with their performances this season. Led by the acquisitions of the likes of Irfan Karim and James Kamande, the team so an overall improvement even in the players retained from last season, Raj Savala a case in point. They put out a brand of assured batting and extraordinarily sharp bowling to see them finish 3rd in the Premier League and top of the Cup table, do route to a 7 wicket win over the Warriors in the final of the Cup. This blogger hopes that this showing can be a catalyst to faster growth of the game in the region