Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ouma Keen To Regain Place, Harper Optimistic.

Cricket in the Kenyan Press.
Again, it is good to see cricket being reported well in the Nation. Today's sports page carries a story entitled 'Baptism of fire awaits three Kenya team lads in Canada'. Not surprisingly, it starts off focussing on the three youngsters in the team: Muange, Variaya and Odhiambo. It then goes on to talk about Maurice Ouma who says he is keen to get back into the team after losing his place following poor performances against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. What is good to see is the candid and straightforward approach taken by Ouma. Rather than blaming anyone else for being dropped, he says:
"The Zimbabwe and Bangladesh tours were not good for me and I know I need to improve,"
While recognising disappointment in being left out of the Canada squad, he also knows what he needs to do to get his place back:
"I'm disappointed to be left out of the Canada tour but I'm not put down. After Canada, Bangladesh will be here and I'm targeting that tour to get back into the team. I'll get back to training, work on my game get some runs and get the attention of the selectors," .
Wonderful to hear, and all the best to him in doing that too. It will be really great to see the whole team selected on players keeping each other out due to good performances, rather than being dropped for not performing.
On a different note, the Nation's article again raises the fact that as yet Cricket Kenya have not yet organised a national league. With the NPCA league starting next week and Rift Valley continuing the Akshar League, at least cricket is being played domestically. However, Tsuma and Mwangi argue that without a national format, there is no way for "players from outside Nairobi to rub shoulders with national team players."
This is a valid point, and one that must be addressed by Cricket Kenya. I also feel that it is something that needs to be introduced before the end of this season to really kick start cricket growth around the country.
Similarly, they express disappointment that the NPCA league offers no prospect of 4-day cricket. While they rightly point out that this is a neccessity for Kenya to achieve Test status, I think it needs to be looked at more as a means of improving the playing standard. We can worry about Test status in the future. For now, we simply need to get back to being the top Associate. To do this, we need our top players to play the four day game regularly. Again, this is up to Cricket Kenya rather than the provincial bodies, but they need to be involved in the planning as well for it to work.
In today's Standard, Roger Harper is quoted as saying that he thinks "our bowlers need to work a little harder — that’s our only weakness". This is something that would certainly be addressed by playing more 4 day cricket. Bowlers need to learn how to get batsmen out and to do this they need to play matches that require that skill.
Oscar Pilipili's article also mentions that Harper is confident of victory, despite expecting a tough battle from the Canadians:
"We are sure they will put up a brave fight, but I’m optimistic we’ll overcome whatever challenge they throw at us," he said.
Let's hope so.
One other thing the Standard mentions, and it has been raised before, is the media ban Harper has supposedly put on the players. While I can see his reasons for doing this, I think that in the present climate of cricket in Kenya, it would be more beneficial to allow the media access. While it is imperative that team moral is kept up, and that team secrets are not divulged etc, Cricket Kenya also needs to get the public onside. True, winning results will go a long way towards this, but so would player interviews and positive press. The few players I have met in the team are nice blokes, and are difficult not to like. One can still sense a mild hostility in the press at the moment, and this needs to be turned around if the game is truly to grow. The players could be very handy in achieving this. All that said, if Harper can deliver the results and we come back from Canada with three wins, no one will probably mind too much.
The team fly out today, so safe trip and all the best to them in Canada.

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