Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bread On The Table

There has been some criticism from certain quarters recently commenting that Kenya's players are having to look for other ways of making a living than training with the national team.
While it may be the case that a couple of the star players are able to earn more playing professionally overseas, it should be pointed out that the players are being looked after by Cricket Kenya as much as finances will allow. All players in the training squad are paid a daily allowance by Cricket Kenya, based on seniority. Their lunch consists of menus approved by Coach Roger Harper and is again provided by Cricket Kenya. Each player is medically insured - for example, almost the entire cost of Martin Suji's knee operation was covered by the insurance provided for the players by Cricket Kenya. On top of this, each member of the squad is also part of a corporate membership scheme at the Aga Khan Sports Centre, fully paid for by the administration. This enables them to use not only the cricket facilities, but the gymnasium and swimming pool free of charge throughout the year, as well as taking advantage of subsidised catering and bar facilities available there. With each player that plays an international match also earning a match fee that may well increase once Cricket Kenya secure a main sponsor, surely things have never looked brighter for Kenya's top cricketers. There is security that they did not previously have, and a committee specifically set up to look after their issues and futures.
Every administration be it government, cricket or tiddlywinks will no doubt have its critics. No one will ever stop that, but it would be nice if those critics would check the facts before making their attacks. Cricket Kenya have a lot to do before cricket is where we would like it to be, but they are trying and it is important that the public and players appreciate how much better off the situation is now than it was previously. Sponsors are in the pipeline and once they are on board, the money will be there to improve the situation further.
No one blames the players who can further their situations by playing professionally overseas doing so, but for people to come out and say that there is 'no bread on the table' is wrong, plain and simple. As for anyone feeling they are being under-paid, they simply need to perform on the pitch. After all, sponsorship dollars are tied pretty closely to performance, and if the team start performing to potential, there will soon be no shortage of sponsors lining up to pay not only Cricket Kenya, but also individual players for product endorsement. It is a different era that Kenyan cricket is moving into, one where players are paid to play, but in turn are expected to give a return on investment. This needs to be reflected in player attitudes, and in the way they approach the game and its promotion. It is not enough to sit back and let the administration do all the work. If they really want to make money from it, they need to help push cricket's growth themselves. They need to make themselves available to the public at matches, answer questions, go to schools and go on radio or TV. They need to do whatever it takes to raise interest in the game, and work harder than ever before on keeping it by winning their matches. Raise the public interest, and sponsorship dollars will follow. There is bread on the table already, but it could just as well be roast beef with gravy.

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