Saturday, January 28, 2006

Home Based or Overseas Based Players

My last post got caught up in the debate between aging versus young talent in the selection choice. In the letter to the nation, another daft concept was raised:
That Cricket Kenya should only pick home based players, and not those based overseas. The writer's view was that picking overseas players would somehow despirit those based in Kenya. He goes on to say that not only should overseas bases players be removed from the selection list, but all those who are not citizens. Leaving cricket aside for a moment, this sort of view would be more at home in Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe, than in Kenya. If someone born in a different country wants to live in Kenya, call it home and play cricket for our National team, they should be welcomed, not shut out because of their ethnicity. This sort of view does no credit to the author, nor to the Nation for printing it. It should have no place in Kenya Cricket, and must not be countenanced.
Going back to cricket and the selection process. If I understand "Cricket Fan - Nairobi" correctly, he seems to be of the opinion that Kenya can afford to lose matches in the short term, simply in order to try to bring up to scratch local players. Leaving out foreign based players would almost certainly result in Kenya losing its matches - two of our top batsmen, Steve Tikolo and Maurice Ouma would miss out, and while there may be some talent back home, there is no way this gap could be filled. Apologies to The Castle, but someone please "Tell him he's dreaming!" Kenya can not afford to lose matches, especially not against teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. In fact, for the long term good of Kenyan Cricket, it is imperative that these matches be won. Zimbabwe are on the wane. Beating them will give us much needed points on the ODI table, and will show that the match we played against their 'A' team in October should actually have been classified as a full ODI. It is not much, but the ramifications of losing to them are not good. If Kenya lose to Zimbabwe, it will hardly encourage any of the better nations to want to play us in the future. Not a happy thought - we have already spent too long with this frame of mind prevalent to allow it to continue.
Beating Bangladesh is also more than a matter of pride. They are the closest we come to a traditional rival, but are also the team placed immediately above us in the table. Beating them will show we can still compete against the Test teams, and will provide reason for others to agree to take us on. I do not know how many matches Kenya needs to play to fully return to the ODI table, but three tours and nine matches, one would think would be more than enough, maybe even two tours and six matches. If we have won the majority of these, we will not only leapfrog Bangladesh on the table, but will overtake Zimbabwe as well. This will only be good for Kenyan Cricket.
There are reasons that players like Tikolo are based overseas. Firstly they are paid better than they would be in Kenya, and I agree, this is something for Cricket Kenya to work on. More importantly, they are seen by their clubs overseas as having the talent and skill to play for them. The reason other players are still in Kenya is because they are not seen in this light. Simplified logic perhaps, but leaving these players out of the team would deprive us of our best talent. Then there is the small matter of match fitness and game experience. The overseas based players are playing at a much more competitive level than those in Kenya. They are playing in professional leagues against players who have represented Test nations. In doing so, they are picking up valuable experience and skills that can be brought back to the domestic game in Kenya. This is a vital resource for Kenyan Cricket, do not let it go to waste due to misguided prejudice!

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