Thursday, March 23, 2006

What Chance Of A Kenyan Revival in 3rd ODI?

For any fan of Kenyan cricket, the last two matches have been painful to watch. In the first one, we lost the toss, and seemed incapable to stop the flow of runs as Bangladesh romped their way to their first ever score of 300. In reply, we were bundled out for a mere 170. Gutsy batting by Tony Suji and Tanmay Mishra avoided more serious embarrassment. In game 2, we won the toss, and made the right decision to bat going on the pitch. Trouble was, with half the team affected by the flu, and our talisman and captain missing, our batsmen were unable to make the most of the conditions. Three players did manage to get to 30 odd, Mishra (again), Modi and David Obuya. None however managed to go on to turn their start into the big innings Kenya so badly need. In return, Bangladesh took less than half the overs, and only one wicket to knock off the runs. Not once in the series so far, have we put Bangladesh under any sort of pressure. Not only are our batsmen failing to make runs, our bowlers are failing to take wickets. In two matches, we have picked up a total of eight wickets, and three of those have been run outs. For Kenya to stand any chance of winning a match against any of the Full members bar Zimbabwe, if they retain the status, there has to be a dramatic change. Will it happen this tour? I believe that I am one of the biggest optimists around concerning Kenyan Cricket, and I would say it looks extremely unlikely.

So far, the only bowlers to have even remotely troubled the opposition have been Thomas Odoyo, who could perhaps consider himself unfortunate not to have more than one wicket, and Peter Ongondo. Ongondo is definitely an improving bowler. So far this year, he has managed to take a wicket in every match Kenya have played - twice when all the other bowlers have failed to do so. To be really effective though, he needs to learn how to stifle the runs as well. Wickets are great, but going for 7 an over is not. If Odoyo starts to take wickets and Ongondo to restrict runs, both of which are not too far away, we will have our opening bowlers. A big problem is who comes in as the back up. Martin Suji looked a long way off his best last match, but was one of those who were ill, so deserves a second chance to defend his place. Of the others, Kalpesh Patel looks the most likely to be of use. He only bowled two overs - one for a maiden, and the second conceding 10 runs. Not great, but a glimpse of potential, and enough surely to earn him a place. Luseno is the other option, but has been expensive without taking wickets, and as much as I would like to see him succeed, maybe it is time for Patel to get a decent run instead. As for the spinners, we just have to hope that Tikolo is well enough to play, and bowl his ten overs. Collins Obuya's return to International cricket was not what he would have hoped for, going for ten an over, and Jimmy Kamande was not much better. Unless one of the spinners gets things together today, Kenya's selectors are going to have to look very seriously at a way to get Sheikh back into the side, whatever it takes, or bring in one of the youngsters.

On to the batsmen. This is the discipline in which Kenya have really let themselves down so far. We are a much better batting line up than the 160 and 170 scores would suggest. Both Kennedy Otieno and Steve Tikolo are capable of scoring centuries, and both are due to get runs. Tanmay Mishra has been the find of the year so far, but needs to step up and turn his starts into a big score. Twice recently he has fallen within sight of his fifty, and once he gets that monkey off his back he will go on to great things. Ideally, he should bat higher up the order so that he has one of the more experienced players with him to calm his nerves and get him past this milestone. Thomas Odoyo and Hitesh Modi are both capable players, and again are just a step away from showing what they can do. Toni Suji has proved himself a battler, and should be able to prop up the tail with Jimmy Kamande and Kalpesh Patel should things again go pear shaped for the top order. These three are useful all rounders, and should be used as such. To my mind, the team has so far fallen between 100 and 120 runs short of what they are capable of. If they can rise to their potential, there is no reason that we cannot be at least competitive against Bangladesh today. A lot of Ifs need to become realities for it to happen, but there is still a chance for Kenya to redeem themselves. All the best to the boys in their efforts to achieve this.

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