Sunday, March 12, 2006

Kenya Tour To Bangladesh Preview

Kenya are due to fly out tomorrow for the four match tour of Bangladesh. After a fairly successful tour to Zimbabwe, I thought it time to assess our chances against our oldest rivals. Kenya and Bangladesh go back a fair bit, and the rivalry has steadily grown since they first played each other back in 1996. Over the last 10 years, the teams' fortunes have ebbed and flowed. For a full history, you could do worse than take a look at Martin Williamson's article on Cricinfo under the title 'Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe - A History'. Don't worry about the title, it is actually about Bangladesh and Kenya (good to see even cricinfo sometimes have an oopsie when it comes to editing).

Overall, Kenya holds a 6-1 advantage in terms of ODI wins, and they have also won the most recent meeting between the two countries. Sounds good doesn't it? The problem is, that last match was way back in 2003, during that wonderful couple of weeks where we made the World sit up and take notice as we qualified for the World Cup Semi Finals. Since then, Kenya have played a grand total of 6 ODIs, 4 of which were in the recent Zimbabwe tour. Effectively, Kenya has been out of International cricket for 2 years. In that time, Bangladesh have improved in leaps and bounds. They have now won ODIs against both Australia, and just recently Sri Lanka. They have been playing Test cricket, even winning their first ever match. So what if it was Zimbabwe; doesn't matter, it is still a Test win. They have an active national domestic league. The team we face over the next four matches is a very different one from the one we beat at the World Cup. Oh, and they will be playing at home. Most Bangladesh supporters seem to think Bangladesh will whitewash us, and several journalists around the World have expressed similar beliefs.

Now that any semblance of overconfidence should be well and truly shredded, lets have a look at what might happen from a Kenyan point of view. Some things should be considered about this series that I don't think everyone who has commented so far has taken into account.

First is that our captain Steve Tikolo, plays his club cricket as a professional in Bangladesh. Not only does he know the strengths and weaknesses of their players, he was also one of the leading batsmen in their last season. He thinks Kenya will win a couple of matches at least. It would be a fool who takes his words lightly.

Second, Kenya always raise their game against Bangladesh. I don't know how or why this happens, but we seem to hold them in the same light that the Aussies and England hold each other - they are enemy No.1, and we will put in great efforts to beat them.

Third, we love being the underdogs and past history notwithstanding, in the eyes of the rest of the World, that is exactly what we are this series.

Fourth, Bangladesh have it all to lose: Test credibility, their position in the top 10 on the ICC table, their place in the first round of the Champions Trophy, you name it. Kenya have nothing to lose. We are not expected to win this series, many don't even expect us to be able to compete. If we win a match, we will put the heebie-jeebies on Bangladesh. Win two, and all sorts of questions are going to be asked of them. Pressure on the Bangladesh team will be immense. From their board, their fans, the rest of the cricket World, and of course our players. If I was neutral, and had to pick a team to play for this series, it would sure as hell not be the Tigers.

All the above being said, I think the cricket will be riveting. Bangladesh have a lot more talent than we are used to seeing from them, and Kenya are a better outfit than most give credit for. Both teams have potential match winners in their ranks, but both teams also have the capability to implode. Indeed, this may end up being the decider between the sides. If Bangladesh can withstand the pressure, they are going to be a very hard team to beat on home soil. If they let it get to them, or someone like Tikolo or Odoyo truly fires for Kenya, we could make it a very uncomfortable time for our hosts. Let's hope that the cobwebs were blown away in Zimbabwe and that it will be the latter. My prediction for the series? I would love to go with my heart and say 3-1 to Kenya, but realistically I will plump for a hard fought 2-2.

No comments: