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.

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

Are we there yet?

Found an interesting little document floating on the web some days ago. It was a PDF purporting to carry what are the various qualifications an aspiring test ought to meet in order to have their application approved. Whether they have been used on the more recent applicants (looks at Bangladesh) is another issue altogether

Now obvoiusly its been a few years since the glory days over here and Kenya cannot reasonably claim, the premier Associate, given the progress of the likes of Ireland and the Netherlands, but I ramble. Going back to the document, there are a few criteria, which I figured I would put on this post on account that Kenya’s cricket stakeholders have talked endlessly about meeting them without really getting there

national team performance

record of national team in:
• three/four day matches against first class teams including matches against national
teams of existing Full Members
• performance of individuals in overseas first class cricket
• performance of Second XI/’A’ Team
• performance of U19 team in Under 19 World Cup and regional tournaments

Kenya’s main access to First Class cricket is the Intercontinental Cup, which for variuos reasons, Kenya has yet to win. Given that the first two years a strike depleted squad actually amed the semifinals, may be argued to be an acheivement in itsel and Kenya were badly hit by having their home games hit bay rain in 2006, that during that time Ireland have won the tournament three years running should raise some alarm bells with the administration. As for Firts class matches agaisnt ful members, Kenya are blessed to actually be able to attract development and academy from the the Sub-continent for tours. Something that no other associates has quite been able to pull off, but if the recent FC results against India A in 2007 and Pakistan Academy are to be repeated they might opt to look for stronger competition elsewhere.

The second point most alarmingly is that (unless one insists on including Grade cricket, which is second tier cricket in Australia) very few Kenyans have made an impact on overseas cricket. In the past 15 years, only four Kenyans have secured playing deals in Overseas leagues in the FC format of the game. Right now only two Kenyans (Ragheb Aga at Sussex, and Seren Waters at Surrey) are signed to teams playing top level cricket.

The third interesting point, is that Kenya can hardly be said to have a functional ‘A’ team at all. A select XI that toured Zimbabwe in 2008, and a home and away series against Denmark (One day games only) amount to almost the entirety of games played by any team that could purport to call itself kenya’s second XI

As for the u19 teams. That we are not even the best team in East Africa saya alot

Cricket Structure

• a country must play regular first class cricket (domestic 3/4 day competition) before playing
Test cricket
• number of teams and players – sufficiently large pool of players to draw from capable of
performing at the highest level of the game.

Kenya’s first and so far only attempt to introduce a First Class 3/4 day competition on the domestic level was centered around the Sahara Leagues, (more here) were scuppered by all manner of misfortune, from the PEV, to bad weather and unavailability of plaers due to school etc. As for this season’s Sahara Elite league, Cricket Kenya, has yet to make known in the public domain what the plan is there.

on the scond point, now there fact that Rift Valley (allegedly created in a cynical power plot by KCA to undermine Nairobi) has turned out to be a blessing in terma of growth of the game. But is it enough to sustain a test team?

Now there is more where this came from, even positives to be pointed out in the management of the board and finances etc (despite what some may claim) . Also likely to come good from the standards set in the operating manual, are the grounds and facilities, thanks mainly to Cricket Kenya sinking an excess of 18 million KES in preparation for the under 19s World Cup, next year. Nonetheless, it is clear that ther is still plenty of work to be done.

Over to you…

The document