Kenya Stumble Down Under, Lose ground in Cricket World Cup Race


Say it with me slowly Rush-a-bhvar-dhan Nipun Patel. Quite the mouthful eh? The young left-hander (Rushab Patel for short) was also a handful for the Papua New Guinea bowlers, as he struck 95 runs in his International debut 50 overs debut. A knock that long term fans might say had shades of Hitesh Modi in his pomp.

Irfan Karim appeals during the PNG innings (Source: espncricinfo)

Unfortunately for Kenya his efforts came in a losing cause as Kenya slumped to a 2-0 loss to Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby. Even more unfortunate was the way Kenya lost its last 5 wickets for 13 runs in a match that Kenya had put themselves in a relatively good position to win.

The final result, a 21 run win for Papua New Guinea, to go with a six wicket win in the first match, in which Irfan Karim’s 73 was a lone bright sport in Kenya’s brittle batting.

Even during the warm up matches against Northern Territory of Australia, Kenya’s batsmen struggled to put together multiple meaningful partnerships, and that came back to haunt them in the WCLC matches.

Kenya now sit in 5th place, 4 points adrift of Holland in the World Cricket League Championship Table, with the league approaching its half way stage.

Kenya next play Hong Kong (with the venue yet to be decided) in November of this year. Though nominally home games for Kenya, the security issues Kenya faces mean that they may have to play their games in a neutral venue.

Given that Hong Kong sit in second place, and therefore hold the second of two qualifying slots for the qualifying tournament of the 2019 World Cup in England, winning these matches will go a long way to keeping Kenya’s world cup qualifying hopes alive.

Like lambs to the Slaughter? Cricket Kenya clears the Coaching decks


A silent purge has been been undertaken in Cricket Kenya as general manager, Josephat Muriithi starts to flex his muscles in the Corridors of power at Cricket Kenya.

First to be relieved were head coach of the men’s national team Steve Tikolo, and his deputy Martin Suji. then in the past few days it has been confirmed that Long time fitness coach and ladies team coach, David Asiji had been handed his p45.

Outgoing Men’s team coach Steve Tikolo (Source: The Star Newspaper)

In the case of Kenya legends  Tikolo and Suji, one could speculate that their departure is connected with the findings of the Rombo Committee, that was meant to get to the bottom of the players strike against these coaches in the lead up to Kenya’s WCL tour of Namibia in late 2015.

At the time , pretty much the entire senior men’s team refused to work with the two veterans of Kenya’s heroics from the 1990s and 2000s, and it seems that Cricket Kenya agrees with the players.

The dismissal of Asiji is a little more cloudy, what with his involvement in other aspects of national team coaching also being a factor.

With  Women’s World Cup qualifying, and World Cricket League matches against Papua New Guinea on the horizon for the women’s and men’s national team, it puts a biot of a squeeze on Cricket kenya to get new full time coaches in pace (if the process is not already underway).

Anyway, hopefully painful as it might be for some of people involved, this blogger hopes it is the beginning of a more active national management. Kenyan  Cricket needs it.

 

Why I Support Stanley Okumbi as #HarambeeStars head Coach Coach


The first major decision of the new FKF team has been made. The highly reputed Bobby Williamson has been relieved of his duties as Hrambee Stars coach and replaced by long time Mathare United tactician Stanley Okumbi.

Early reactions I am seeing on the inter webs are mostly negative, and downright critical of the decision. The basis, which I totally understand is that Mr. Okumbi is neither glamorous, neither does he have a trophy cabinet full of shiny medals and titles that are the normal expectation when hiring a national team coach.

However I think that because of the challenges that Football in Kenya has, not just Harambee Stars recent run of poor qualifying outcomes, Stanley Okumbi is the kind of coach who is best suited for the job right now.

Stanley Okumbi, in his days as Mathare United Coach (Source: The Star Newspaper)

 

His predecessor Bobby Williamson, a great coach by any standards, had come off taking Uganda Cranes too multiple CECAFA titles, and Gor Mahia to much silverware.

He was the kind of coach who you would normally expect to get such an assignment. Lots of trophies, foreign passport, etc. Yet in his tenure in the Stars coaching job was hardly the roaring success one would expect.

The reason for this is not because the man himself suddenly became a bad coach, it is because Harambee Stars have problems that cannot be fixed by the glamour of a famous coach. Harambee Stars problems are structural.

FKF has yet to implement clear program for player development, coach development, friendly fixtures and other supplementary issues that the coaches of major football powers take for granted, when they take on the job of coaching whatever national team they are in charge of.

For Harambee Stars coaches on the other hand, the modus Operandi is get a ‘name recognized’ superman and hope the man can work miracles in spite of the total lack of co-operation or direction from the administration.

Failure to which,  FKF blame that coach for everything wrong and repeat the process  with some other  superman coach, to somehow unilaterally work wonders.

Up till now it seems. By appointing someone whose background in football is from the most successful player development program in the country, the Mathare Youth Sports Association, FKF is signalling that they want to bring in people who know what it actually takes to holistically build a successful national team from the ground up.

Stanley Okumbi may not have a lot of trophies or medals, while guiding a seriously outgunned and inexperienced Mathare United team into mid table finishes in the Sport Pesa premier League. Yet I am sure that if you ask many of the players who have left Mathare United to greater glory with local, regional and international teams, many will tell you that his coaching is what laid the foundation for them to succeed as players.

I am not writing this post to play Devil’s advocate, I genuinely believe that Stanley Okumbi’s strengths are uniquely matched to the areas of weakness that Harambee Stars have as a team.

I also want to believe that as time goes on many people with similar youth football backgrounds, whether they are foreign or local, famous or not, will be added to coach our other national and youth teams, and that between them they can help FKF bring not just temporary success (winning the match or bahatishaing a small local trophy) but long term dominance of their opponents back to Harambee Stars.

In short Stanley Okumbi may not be the coach we want, he is the coach we need right now.

A review of Kenya’s World Cricket league Tour of Namibia


Unfortunately iIhave left this blog to wither a bit and first things its to apologize for that. Sorry.

Anyway, this post is to share some thoughts on Kenya’s World Cricket league matches against Namibia, in Namibia. It is not every day that a team marches into such an assignment with so much acrimony any yet comes out the other end so successful. That is what happened here.

Kenya team set out to Namibia on the back of a player protest to remove the legendary Steve Tikolo as coach of the team, Kenya found themselves heading to Namibia with an interim captain (who had been out of the team for over a year) and an interim coach, that was actually the outgoing captain.

They came back having beaten Namibia twice and sitting  joint top of a WCL Division 1 group they are only a part of because of the International Cricket Council Being the International Cricket Council.

The victories featured a swashbuckling 80 (off 58 deliveries) from Rakep Patel in the first game, and an amazing team bowling effort in the second in which Namibia folded to 123 all out.

Rakep Patel cuts loose in his 80 against Namibia (source: espncricinfo)

On a certain level this series vindicates the players (mostly the same bunch who have struggled to match Namibia on the field in the recent past) in their complaints regarding the kind of coaching they had been getting from preceding Cricket Kenya appointed staff.

It should also give the players a stronger hand  if the promised ‘review’ of national team management will go ahead. Hopefully it will allow for a level of dialogue that will finally put some of these cyclical tugs-of-war between board and players to bed.*

 

With Scotland, Netherlands,  Hong Kong,  Papua New Guinea,  and Nepal still to go, there is still a lot of cricket to play. And if they come through that gauntlet, they and one other team will proceed to another World Cup Qualifying tournament, in which they will play the bottom 6 teams in the ICC’s ODI rankings, for the opportunity to feature in the 2019 World Cup in England.

  • NB: I am an unabashed optimist

World Cricket League Division II: Where Kenya Stand


The grind of the International Cricket Council’s elaborate and extensive World Cricket League tournament system was back in action over the past week. Kenya was in Namibia, for Division II of the ODI side of the World Cricket League.

Up for grabs were two slots in Division I of the World Cricket League, two slots in the next round of the Intercontinental Cup (which will be a qualifier for a shot at test cricket) and generally getting a little bit closer to qualification in the 2019 ODI World Cup. For the worst two, relegation down to Division III, and generally making the path to World Cup qualification that much more complicated.

There were 6 teams who played each other over that week. Namibia, who were hosting the tournament, and Netherlands promoted, Uganda and Canada were relegated, while Nepal and Kenya will wait for the next round of World Cricket League Division II matches.

On the one hand Kenya finished the tournament as the 3rd best team overall by beating Nepal in the 3rd v. 4th place playoff. On the other hand, Kenya only narrowly escaped relegation by a net run rate differential of approximately 0.2, again as a result of beating Nepal on the last day of round robin matches.

It’s hard to say whether one should be happy that Kenya were resilient enough to dodge the bullet of relegation and even grab 3rd place overall, or sad that they were never really good enough to bounce straight back into Division I of the WCL, having only just been relegated into Division II.

Kenya looked very good dispatching Uganda and Nepal twice. Their bowling unit (led by Nelson Odhiambo’s 15 wickets at 17 apiece) was able to pretty much out smart and outplay their opposing batsmen, while the Kenya batsmen were savvy enough to collectively chase down totals, or score enough runs to win.

Nelson Odhiambo is quietly making himself a pillar for team Kenya (Source: espncricinfo)

On the flip side, in their losses against Canada, Namibia and the Netherlands, the batting either proved too brittle to withstand the pressure from the opponents bowling, or the bowling unit was unable to react appropriately to the aggression of the opposing batsmen.

Case in point being the Netherlands game, where only some late hitting from Nehemiah Odhiambo got Kenya to a total of 212/9, which the Dutch promptly chased down in 31 overs.

Kenya now moves their attention to the process of qualifying for the T20 World Cup. This will involve first making it out of the Africa Qualifier tournament and qualifying for a global qualifier tournament, whose qualifiers will go to a preliminary round before they qualify for the World Cup proper.

The Future is Now, whether Kenyan Cricket likes it or not


The streak is over. Kenya’s longest streak of consecutive world cup appearances in any sport is over. In failing to secure passage to the 2015 Cricket World Cup, something we had started taking for granted, Kenyan cricket has lost a platform to really market the game on the global stage. Kenya has also fallen out of the privileged group of ICC Associates whose national team games were accorded ODI status. The boys fought to the bitter end, only losing their ODI status on the third to last delivery of the last over of the final game against Scotland.

What are the implications? In the immediate term, there are a whole bunch of grants that Cricket Kenya will no longer be entitled to on account of not being in the World Cup. The loss of ODI status means loss of access and profile for the games that Kenya does play which means those reluctant sponsors might just become even more reluctant to put their identity with Kenya’s national team. It also means that Irfan Karim, Duncan Allan, and Alex Obanda,   co’s talents will remain Kenya’s little secret for the foreseeable future, thus it will be that much harder for them to land those pro contracts which make the time and opportunities they have sacrificed to be Kenya’s national cricket team worthwhile.

The only consolation is that by at least making it into the super 6 stage of the World Cup qualifiers, Kenya probably still has the Intercontinental Cup (or whatever the ICC’s ongoing overhaul will replace it with) to look forward to

Where does Kenya go from here?  This blogger feels that at least at the admin end they should already know the answer. If they don’t perhaps they should borrow a leaf from one or two the teams <a cough>Papua New Guinea</a> for inspiration. Nepal is one of the teams that will be taking over the opportunity ODI status for the next four years that the likes of Kenya squandered. Start getting serious about making cricket national sport, build real partnerships with the neighbouring full members (akin to the arrangement that PNG had with Australia) and if I haven’t mentioned it before, get serious about taking the game out of the members clubs and into schools colleges and perhaps even the disciplined forces. I mean imagine how appropriate it would be for Kenya to give the world a team named Armed Forces Cricket Club?

I digress. The important thing is that for Kenya to come out of this low, the model of old must be tossed out, and a new one constructed in its place.

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.