Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sight Screen: Upcoming seasons

Sight Screen: Upcoming seasons
A pretty fair assumption as far as Kenya are concerned. It would be hoped that the BCCI can be made to see the longer term picture as well. The more the developing nations are encouraged, the greater the worldwide number of spectators, the greater the chance for revenue flow.

A big weekend for Cricket in Kenya

This weekend is a major turning point in Kenyan Cricket. Today, Roger Harper arrives to take over the post of coach of the national team. His first task will be to prepare the team for the upcoming One Day International (ODI) series in Bangladesh, assuming of course this goes ahead. He will have just over a month to get to know the players, and gel them into a unit capable not only of competing, but winning. No pressure coach! Welcome and good luck!
Tomorrow, according to reports in the Standard, the KCA executive committee will meet to dissolve the Association, and replace it with Cricket Kenya. After years of mis-management, and the resulting fallout - player strikes, sponsorship withdrawal, lack of matches, a new dawn is here. There is a challenge for the new body to make up a lot of lost ground in a short space of time, but it is possible. One of the first steps Kenya Cricket must take is to bring on board some sponsors. With the ODI series in Bangladesh coming up, plus the Intercontinental tie against Holland, there should be plenty to lure potential sponsors back to the fold. Kenya Cricket must then look to the domestic game and spreading the word. Under the last administration, it was left largely to the provincial bodies to organise the majority of the cricket played in Kenya. This must change. If Cricket is to become a truly national sport, and there is no reason why this should'ne happen, it must be the national body, i.e Cricket Kenya who pave the way. Samir Inamdar has stated that he wants to set up a National Competition at junior as well as senior level. Now is the time for this to be put into place. There is a lot of work to do ahead for Cricket Kenya, but the right noises are being made. All the best to the new team - we watch for the results with interest, and finally, a little hope.
Also tomorrow is the final of the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association Twenty-20 competition. A replay of last year, it should be a cracker of a match, and a perfect opportunity for Kenya's new coach, and the board of selectors to spot for talent. Anyone in Nairobi could do a lot worse for a day's entertainment than get along to support the game, and in doing so,cricket in Kenya.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Zimbabwe Withdrawal from Tests: A perfect chance for ICC to make good on expansion promise

At first glance, Zimbabwe's withdrawal from Test cricket leaves the West Indies, Pakistan and the ICC in an unfortunate position of having to sort out how they will recoup the financial losses from the cancellation of the tours. In cricketing terms, the withdrawal makes perfect sense. There is no way Zimbabwe could field a competetive side for the upcoming tour, and the games would only result in them being embarrassed and people being turned off from cricket.
Leaving aside for a moment the cricketing reasons for the withdrawal, the financial aspect does at first seem like a blow. However, consider the pros and cons of a one sided test match involving the host nation and Zimbabwe or a more competetive match involving the host nation and a "Best of the Rest" team. It has been said that Zimbabwe would be lucky to last 2 days of a Test match at their current level - not exactly a great money spinner. A composite team bringing together the cream of the World's non-Test playing nations would almost certainly put up a better fight. They may not neccessarily win (that is possibly a debate for another day), but would probably take the match into at least three or four days, possibly even five. In terms of the gate receipts, this would almost certainly bring in more revenue, especially if marketed properly. Television rights however would also be a great opportunity to make extra revenue than would have been generated by a failing Zimbabwe side. First there is the lure of novelty. In established Test nations, there would be an interest in the series simply to see how much of a fight a composite team could manage, plus the intrigue of something new. Then there are those who just love cricket, and will watch any match that is a contest. So your established markets are kept interested, especially if, as one would expect, the composite team perform better than Zimbabwe would. Then there is the lure for TV producers of the untapped market. Say the team is made up of players from the top 6 Associate members plus Zimbabwe. Suddenly instead of having a disinterested population (I can't see many in Zimbabwe able to stay interested in seeing their side flogged) in one country, you have seven interested populations. I know which option I would prefer if it was me with the TV rights.
In cricketing terms the Test series scheduled to involve Zimbabwe need not be a loss either. Instead of Zimbabwe, the ICC should send a "Best Of the Rest of the Word" side picked from Zimbabwe and the best Associate members. As a rough squad, I would suggest 2 players each from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ireland, Bermuda, Scotland, Canada and Holland - each picked by their respective board, plus the balance made up of players chosen by the ICC from any non-test playing nation. This would be a great way to expand the knowlege of the long version of the game, give the 'minnows' exposure and promote the game outside it's traditional boundaries. Teams such as Ireland and Kenya have no shortage of players who would thrive on this sort of a challenge. It would mean that players such as Steve Tikolo, who could easily make it into many of the current Test teams, would finally have a chance to prove themselves on this great stage. I doubt they would fail to perform.
Zimbabwe have only withdrawn for a year, so for 2006, this could purely be implemented on a trial basis. Come 2007, if Zimbabwe are ready to be re-admitted, then the ICC can address that, but if what many believe will happen does, and Zimbabwe are still not ready, then the ICC could either continue with the ROTW idea, or put some other measure in place. The fall of the game in Zimbabwe is sad, but it need not neccessarily be bad for cricket, in fact if addressed correctly, it could prove to be a hidden blessing.

KCA dissolution approaches

According to a report in the Standard newspaper, the KCA will finally be dissolved on Sunday and be replaced with Cricket Kenya. The decision is said to be unanimous amoungst the affiliates of KCA and will finally close the door on an era of mismanagement and division within Kenyan cricket.
With the tour of Bangladesh now looking more certain, and possibly even a visit to Pakistan, things seem to be looking up. Any potential sponsors will have 2 definite, if we include the Intercontinental match vs Holland, and one possible (Pakistan) tours coming up, plus the benefit of knowing their money can be put to good use rather than being used to plug the holes left by Sharad Ghai and his cronies.
From the Kenya team's perspective, they can also look at this weekend as a fresh start. Roger Harper, the new coach arrives on Saturday, and so can go straight to work once the selectors have done their bit. With the form shown in the NPCA Twenty-20 competition, and several key and upcoming players having attended recent coaching forums, there looks like plenty to choose from. We should be able to look to a blend of experience and newcomers to field a very competetive side.
Kwaheri KCA, Karubuni Kenya Cricket!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bangladesh Tour now on in March

Does this mean that Bangladesh have finally been prevailed upon by the ICC to play Kenya. If this offer is genuine, it will be a fantastic opportunity for Kenya's new coach Roger Harper to show what he can achieve in a short time. It will also give Kenya a great chance to put some points on the board for the ICC One Day International table. Currently, Kenya are top of the second tier in 11th spot , but left off the top tier due to not having played enough matches. A win in the series against Bangladesh would give Kenya a good shot at actually overtaking them on the table. Even better would be the unlikely event of Zimbabwe playing and making it a tri series. Kenya has a good track record against both teams, and with the number of matches provided by a such a competition, would almost certainly make it back onto the top table, assuming of course they win.
While the KCA were taken by surprise by this announcement, it is unlikely they will let the opportunity slip by if indeed it is genuine. Bangladesh have been Kenya's main rivals over recent years, and it irked many in Kenyan cricket when they were elevated to Test status above us. Since, Kenya has had a very commendable record against the Tigers, and many feel that the constant rescheduling of this tour was simply an effort by Bangladesh to avoid playing a lower ranked, but better team. We shall see, but finally things seem to be moving in the right direction for Samir Inamdar and his new board. If the ICC can now lean on Pakistan to make the April tour a reality, things could really be looking up. All that would be remaining would be for a sponsor to step forward, and with the prospect of two full series ahead, one would think this a great opportunity for that to happen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Twenty-20 finalists decided (just)

In a replay of last years final, Kenya's top two clubs, Nairobi Jafferies 'A' and Swamibapa 'A' will meet to decide this years NPCA Twenty-20 crown.
Swamibapa were convincing in their semi against Aga Khan. Batting first, Jimmy Kamande's 36 helped them to a respectable 149 which they defended with ease. Aga Khan never looked likely to get the runs, and finished way off the mark on 107.
Swamibapa 'A' 149 (J.Kamande 36, T.Mishra 3-27, H.Karia 2-23) defeated Aga Khan 'A' 107 for 7 (B.Patel 16) by 42 runs.
Where the first Semi final was one sided, the other was anything but. Kanbis 'A' won the toss and elected to bat. Despite tight performances from Thomas Odoyo, and a rejuvenated Collins Obuya, Kanbis managed to take their score to 120. No small part of this was due to a battling Ramesh Mepani, who backed up his half century in the quarters with a much needed 33. Selectors take note.
In reply, Jafferies got of to a solid start, and at the halfway mark, looked in a good position at 2 for 65.
We constantly hear TV commentators going on about "the best way to slow the scoring is to take wickets". Kanbis obviously have access to Supersport, as they followed this advice, and upped the pressure on the chasers by doing just that. Still, going in to the last over, it still looked like the match could go either way. Jafferies had Obuya, no slouch with the bat, at the crease and Mepani was bowling. Things didn't quite go as planned however for Jafferies, and a tightish over meant they still needed a single of the last ball to win the match. Obuya tried to work the ball and was rewarded by the sounds of timber falling behind him. Kanbis went into celebration mode, but the joy was cut short as they realised, that despite the runs being tied, Jafferies would still proceed to the final by dint of having lost fewer wickets.
Kanbis 'A' 120 all out (R.Mepani 33, T.Odoyo 4-10, C.Obuya 2-11) tied with Nairobi Jafferies 'A' 7 - 120 (A.Sheikh 30). Nairobi Jafferies through to final due to losing less wickets.
These results should set up a thrilling final with some of Kenya's most exciting batsmen facing some of our best bowlers. My money would probably be on the Swami's, but if Odoyo and Obuya keep up this weekend's form, Jafferies will be in with a real chance.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kenya's new coach: Roger Harper

It has been a long time coming, but the Kenya Cricket Association have finally named a coach to take Kenya through to the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. The 42 year old West Indian is expected to take up the reins later this month having resigned as coach of the West Indies U19 team earlier this week. Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Harper will bring home ground knowlege to Kenya's World Cup campaign, as well as experience at both Test and One Day International level as both player and coach.
Renowned as one of the best fielders of his generation (possibly one of the reasons he was chosen as Kenya's new coach), he made his international debut against India in 1983. In his ten years as a Test cricketer, he took 46 wickets with his off-spin, and hit over 500 runs. In One Dayers, he took 100 wickets and had a batting strike rate of 73%, though only averaging just over 16.
Harper has had coaching experience with the West Indies at senior level, so knows what it takes to compete at the top level in both One Day Internationals, and in the longer forms of the game. He may have the experience and credentials as a coach, but this assignment will not be an easy one. Almost six months after the removal of the old KCA administration, Kenya are still without any fixtures against Test nations. Even the proposed ODI series in Bangladesh in February now seems in jeopardy. Harper could be the best coach in the World, but unless Kenya get more matches against both the other 5 Associate members and the Test nations, it will mean little. A lack of experience will result in a poor World Cup, and no ODI's will mean that Kenya will remain off the bottom of the One Day table.
Maybe Harper's connections with the West Indies could yield some matches, maybe the ICC will persuade the Test Nations to play some matches against us. In the meantime, the KCA need to arrange as many fixtures against the other 5 Associates as possible to give Harper the chance to show what he can do.
Good luck Roger Harper - we will watch the developments with interest, and still a little hope!