Friday, March 17, 2006

Game On!

Bangladesh is waking up, and in a few hours all the talk will be over and Steve Tikolo's boys will be striding onto the pitch do do battle with Kenya's main rivals. Hopefully, the Kenyan team have had a good night's sleep and are in top form for the task ahead.
Realistically, what can kenya expect today? We must remember that Bangladesh are not the team we are used to beating almost every time we take the park against them. They have improved out of sight, while we have stagnated over the past couple of years. Kenya's talent is however still there, and the recent tour of Zimbabwe should have reminded the experienced players what is expected of them. For the youngsters, it will be a learning experience, but also a wonderful opportunity to cement a long term place in the side.
Bangladesh are going to come out all guns firing. Their fans demand it, their coach demands it, and the World expects it. For them, anything less than a comprehensive win will be a failure today. Some of this may play into Kenya's hands. If the young Bangladesh players have been listening to public opinion, they will believe that the match will be easily won. Overconfidence has brough them unstuck before, and they would be unwise to underestimate both the quality and fighting spirit of their opponents. Bangladesh may have a point to prove, but so do Kenya. We are tired of being labelled the side that makes up the numbers. We got to the World Cup semi finals, and people said it was luck. We have beaten several Test nations, and each time there have been people who repeat that it is luck. Well, it is often said that you make your own luck, and Kenya will certainly be aiming to do this today.
In terms of the key battles in this match, here are my views on the players who will make a difference today:
Steve Tikolo - whatever else is said, it is clear that Bangladesh both fear and respect Tikolo. If he can get on top of them and prey on this, they will have to dig deep to overcome his presence.
Shahadat Hossain - he is fast, and may give some of the Kenyan batsmen a hurry up. If we can get his measure, we go a long way to neutralising the Bangladesh attack.
Kennedy Otieno - A lot of people forget he has more ODI centuries than his captain, and he has done it before against Bangladesh too. If he can translate his form from Zimbabwe onto the better Bangladesh pitch, he could prove crucial to a big score.
Mohammed Asraful - Bangladesh's most dangerous batsman. If we can knock him over cheaply, it will be a huge boost for us, and a major blow to Bangladesh confidence.
Thomas Odoyo - Will be called upon to perform with both bat and ball. If he plays well, he will be a major handful for the Tigers.
Aftab Ahmed - Another Bowler Kenya need to get on top of; he has taken 5 wickets in an innings before. Also a useful batsman who can score runs quickly.
Finally, I do not want to put pressure on him or jinx him, but I believe that this series will see Tanmay Mishra really come of age for Kenya. I think he will come as quite a surprise to Bangladesh.
Enough talk. Bring on the cricket!

Pre Match Hype

There seems to be a fair few rumours flying around in the lead up to the first ODI. One of the more credible regards the Umpires for the match. Nadeem Ghauri from Pakistan and Nadir Shah from Bangladesh will officiate, but I haven't found any news yet on who the third umpire will be, if there is one.

Other reports regarding the pitch, and the starting line up also seem to be doing the rounds. Most people think it will be a slow pitch, but nothing official on this yet, so we will see. Again, there a few different starting line ups being touted, but nothing concrete yet.

Kenya vs. Bangladesh 1st ODI Coverage

Unfortunately, due to unavoidable circumstances, it looks like I will not be able to post live comments on the first ODI.

Here are some links to places that may be running ball by ball updates:

Tiger Cricket (Official Bangladesh Site).
ECB - England and Wales Cricket Board - they covered the Zimbabwe series, so will probably cover the Bangladesh matches as well.
Cricinfo - So far, no link for the match on their site, but it would surprise me if there isn't one by the time the game starts.
Bangla Cricket also have a match thread with comments on the match by fans.

I will of course try to post on the match as soon as I can, in the meantime, hope at least one of the above sites has a good live feed.

Bangladesh vs. Kenya Quotes

Some quotes from the lead up to the Kenya - Bangladesh series:

"We are really hungry to play international cricket. We have had very little opportunities to play international games since our commendable performance in the last World Cup. We are hoping that our lack of exposure would be taken under consideration by the world cricket governing body," Steve Tikolo. Daily Star

"Our captain knows the condition and the players and I believe it will help us. You will recognise some young faces. What impressed me most is the enthusiasm among the cricketers about the tour. We came here to play good and competitive cricket." Kenya Coach, Roger Harper. Cricinfo

"Although the record is in favor of Kenya, we have been playing good cricket - we recently beat strong teams like Australia, India and Sri Lanka in one-day internationals," Bangladesh Captain, Habibul Bashar. BBC

"Once we were close rivals of Bangladesh in any competition. But this time Bangladesh are favourites. We're going to start as the underdogs but we are fully prepared to give good fight." Steve Tikolo. Cricinfo

"He has the fast bowler's attitude. It's priceless. He is an exciting prospect for us and we all recognise that. I just pray that he keeps clear of injuries so that we can have him and Mashrafe [bin Mortuza] bowling together. With [Syed] Rasel also bowling extremely well at the moment, the Bangladesh pace attack could become very potent indeed." Habibul Bashar on Shahadat Hossain, one of the Bangladesh players who could prove a handful for the Kenyan batsmen. Cricinfo

"Bangladesh should win this series at a canter, and their performances in the just-finished series at home to Sri Lanka will have further boosted their burgeoning confidence." Martin williamson. Cricinfo

"They are a good team but I am not considering the strength of the opposition. If we are to make a habit of winning, this is the time to go for it," Bangladesh Coach Dav Whatmore. Daily Star

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Can Kenya Still Qualify For The Champions Trophy?

This question has been asked me several times, and there have been quite a few comments about it on various media. Here are the facts as I understand them:
  • To qualify for the Champions Trophy (CT), a team must be ranked in the top 10 according to the LG ICC rankings as of April 1st 2006.
  • Bangladesh are currently the 10th ranked team. Kenya need to get ahead of them to qualify for CT '06.
  • Currently Kenya are not ranked as they have not played enough games.
  • The Kendrix Report (was available on the ICC's web page earlier, but I can no longer find it), includes a recommendation on the criteria for a team to move from stage II (having a rating, but no ranking) to Stage III (having a rating, and a ranking):

"My recommendation is that for a team to be ranked, it should have completed at least ten rated ODIs during the period covered by the ratings, i.e. the past 2-3 years. "

  • Kenya has to date played SIX ODI's in this ratings period. Two in CT '04, and four just recently in Zimbabwe.
  • To attain a rating, the Associate must have won at least two of these ten matches. Kenya did that in Zimbabwe.
  • Again from the Kendrix Report

"A team, having fulfilled the promotion criteria, will immediately receive a rating, but may then need to play further ODIs in order to achieve a full ranking. However, if at the time of its promotion, it has already played at least ten qualifying matches against teams that at the time were themselves rated, they would proceed straight to a ranking and thus bypass stage II."

  • According to this, on completion of the 4th ODI against Bangladesh, Kenya will have a ranking, as all the criteria have been filled.
  • There is an ICC meeting coming up next week in which they will decide how many matches Kenya need to have played to qualify for a ranking. This is an excerpt from their website (full story here):

"Kenya are yet to play the minimum number of matches required to earn themselves a place on the LG ICC ODI Championship table - that number will be determined at next week's ICC Executive Board meeting in Dubai - but if it is decided it should be eight then their four matches in Bangladesh will take them over that threshold.
If that is the case then Kenya could qualify for the Champions Trophy ahead of Bangladesh unless the home side wins their series by at least two clear matches (for example, by 3-1)."

  • Going into the series, Bangladesh have 17 poins, Kenya have 37. Assuming that all four matches are completed, three results would see Kenya finish with a higher Rating and therefore Ranking than Bangladesh: 4-0 to Kenya, 3-1 to Kenya, or a 2-2 draw. If Bangladesh win the series, they leapfrog us on the table.

Note that the ICC website only recognises the matches Kenya have played this year. To my reading, that goes against both the system used for ranking teams, and against the recommendation made in the Kendrix Report.

It is a fairly complicated scenario, and it is to some extent left up to the ICC as to whether Kenya will qualify for the CT or not. My reading, based on their website, and on earlier articles is they may well decide that 8 matches suffice, and so it will be down to the series result. I believe that this is unneccessary intervention, as going by the Kendrix recommendation, Kenya will have PLAYED 10 matches in the last 2 years anyway. Again, it would then be down to the series result.

My conclusion: If Kenya can win two of the four matches in Bangladesh, we will qualify for a place in CT '06, unless some sort of skullduggery goes on. It is a huge ask, but certainly possible. Again, this will put pressure on Bangladesh. They are expected whitewash Kenya and to go to the CT by almost everyone connected with cricket. If Kenya even look like getting in their way, I would not want to be a Bangladesh team member - the fans will go nuts, the World press will go nuts and the BCCI will probably go bananas. As for me? I'll have a banana sundae with nut sprinkle and pray that the ICC gives us a fair go.

Who Will Take The Field For Kenya?

With one day to go, here is my proposed batting line up for the first One Day International against Bangladesh:
  1. Kennedy Otieno(wkt). A no-brainer really. He has made this spot his own, and showed good form in Zimbabwe. With better pitches in Bangladesh, hopefully Kennedy can add to his haul of ODI Centuries tomorrow. His glove work has also reportedly improved heaps since the stint with Rod Marsh, so while they have seen him before, his improvement may give Bangladesh a bit of a surprise.
  2. Tanmay Mishra. He opens in the domestic comp, and he is one of the youngsters who really looks like he can step up to the level we need. this is a problem spot for Kenya, and I think Mishra deserves a chance. It is a lot better than wasting his talent down the order.
  3. Hitesh Modi. Great to see him back in the side. He can be a bit slow to score at times, but he has the experience to overcome that if needed. He also knows what it feels like to beat Bangladesh.
  4. Steve Tikolo(cpt). Could be key to Kenya's chances. He narrowly missed out on a century in Zimbabwe, lets hope he can make at least one in Bangladesh. His spin will also come in handy for the middle overs. I would like to see him bowl more than he did in Zimbabwe, especially as he should know the opposition weaknesses.
  5. Thomas Odoyo(v.cpt). Showed form with the bat in Zimbabwe, and we need this to continue in Bangladesh. I believe he is capable of an ODI Century, lets hope that he can do it this series. Will be key for Kenya with the ball. If he can make inroads at the top of the Bangladesh innings, that will heap the pressure on their middle order.
  6. Maurice Ouma. I know he didn't perform in Zimbabwe, but he has the talent to do well. He may find it easier to play his strokes lower down the order.
  7. Kalpesh Patel. Missed out in Zimbabwe, and thouroughly deserves his chance. Will add depth to the batting, as well as giving a genuine swing option to Tikolo. One of the best fielders in the side.
  8. Jimmy Kamande. Showed great spirit with the bat on the last tour, and will give Tikolo an extra spin option if the pitch warrants it. He is also a great fielder. If it is more of a seamers pitch, Tony Suji might be a better choice here.
  9. Collins Obuya. On the proviso that he has regained his form. If he has, he could potentially terrorise the Bangladeshis with his leg spin. If he is still a bit wobbly, then I would have Tony Suji here instead.
  10. Peter Ongondo. In great form in Zimbabwe where he took the most wickets of the series. This will be tougher competition however, but he should be able to step up.
  11. Martin Suji. Excellent to have a tight strike bowler back in the side. Many of Thomas Odoyo's wickets have been helped by Suji in the past, and the resumption of their bowling partnership is great news for Kenya.

12th man/Super Sub: If this is to be used, then whoever misses out on the number 8 spot out of Kamande and Suji.

In related news, it appears that Bangladesh's captain may have to miss the match due to his mother being in hospital. We wish her well, and a speedy recovery.

Tikolo Happy with Role Of Underdogs

Well, there is only one sleep to go until the four match series against Bangladesh is underway, and I for one am getting very excited. This is the latest article on Cricinfo about the series. It basically rehashes what the earlier articles from the Daily Star, and Nation had to say on Kenya's arrival. Basically that Kenya are just happy to be playing ODIs again. Tikolo I feel is playing the underdog card very well here. He is taking the pressure off his players while building it up on the Bangladesh team. Make no mistake though, behind the mild manner and calm words, there is plenty of determination. Kenya's older players are fighters, and will have instilled the same mentality in the youth. If you need evidence of Tikolo's expectations from this tour, look no further than his feelings on the 2-2 result from Zimbabwe. While the weight of expectation was that Zimbabwe should have beaten Kenya, Tikolo was candid in his feelings, and thought that we should have won 3-1. He did not have the best tour himself, and will almost certainly intend to make ammends in Bangladesh.
According to the Daily Star in this article, the locals in Bogra are so far not overly enthused about the coming ODI. Judging by the sheer volume of traffic on the Bangla Cricket forum, I am not so sure about this, but we shall see when the gates open tomorrow. While I am mentioning Bangla cricket, I might add that I can see why Tikolo likes to play his professional cricket in Bangladesh. I was asked to do a guest thread there, and despite being an opposition fan, I have been treated with nothing but courtesy by all the members. If their actual hospitality is anything at all like this, it must be a wonderful country to visit.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Australian Representative Side To Tour Kenya

On the back of the announcement about Kenya 'A' touring Denmark comes a second major coup for Cricket Kenya. Samir Inamdar writes to inform me that:

"We have finalised a tour by an Australian representative team, the Commonwealth Bank Centre of Excellence."
It is likely that the team will be a strong one comprised of a mix of, former and future internationals plus Australia 'A' players. Dates for the tour will be from 29th August to 4th September, and will comprise 3 ODIs against the Kenya national team in Nairobi. It has not been mentioned, but I would expect these matches to be classified as First Class. The Kenyan leg of the tour is part of a larger trip taking in South Africa and Zimbabwe as well. Arrangement of the tour follows a letter sent by Tom Tikolo to James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia requesting support for Kenyan cricket. Australian cricket is slowly getting involved with the Associates, and while I feel they have a way to go, all credit to them for taking this step. Hopefully more will follow. Cricket Kenya are also hoping that the Australian High Commission in Nairobi will get on board and support the visit.
Inamdar believes that, aside from the opportunity to learn from players of the calibre we will be facing,
"it means that we can hit the ground running on our return from Canada after our Intercontinental four dayer and our ODI triseries with Bermuda and Canada".

These two tours are a fantastic step in the right direction, and illustrate how hard Cricket Kenya are working to get everything back on track again. There is still much to do, including putting together a meaningful domestic competition at a national level, and also organising the junior structure, but the signs are there that the neccessary work is being done. Congratulations to Cricket Kenya, and keep up the good work!

Kenya 'A' To Tour Denmark

Great news for Kenya's up and coming players with the 'A' team scheduled to tour Denmark between June 23rd and July 6th. Fixtures organised by the Danish Cricket Board in association with Cricket Kenya will include two matches against the Danish national side, and one against the Danish under 23 team. There will also be matches against provincial and combined club sides. Expenses, including air travel and accommodation for the trip are being taken care of by Torben Noehr who has regularly travelled to Mombasa with his side Herning to play matches against Mombasa Sports club. He has also been instrumental in putting together this tour. The complete itinerary will be finalised over the next couple of weeks.

This tour is to be commended for several reasons. It will give much needed exposure to Kenya's 'A' team, which has been sadly lacking over the past few years. Serving as a feeder for the national side, this will mean that younger players get a chance to play competitive cricket before being thrust into the pressure of full ODIs. Denmark will also benefit from this, as their national side and club cricketers also receive exposure at a higher level. Kenya is one of the leading Associates, and tours like this should help shame the Test nations into offering similar support to lower ranked teams. Finally, it is a shining example of generosity, and what one man can do. Torben Noehr I salute you.

Kenyans Arrive in Bangladesh

There is an interesting report in Bangladesh's Daily Star about the team arriving in Bangladesh. Steve Tikolo has been talking up Bangladesh as the favourites, and the general opinion in Bangladesh seems to be the same. This is all good. Kenya enjoy having this status against the hosts, and it will put more pressure on the Bangladesh team. Both Tikolo, and coach Roger Harper stressed the importance of any International cricket to Kenya, and the desire of the team to play well. A good performance in Bangladesh will certainly add weight to these calls for more exposure. Kenya will be off to Bogra today to prepare to face Bangladesh in the first ODI on Friday March 17th. Of the Kenyan papers, The Nation also commented on the teams arrival, though they led with Asif Karim commentating for ESPN. Not surprisingly, each paper focussed on the plus points for their country, despite the reports being almost identical otherwise.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ugandan's Benefit From Aussie Generosity

Take a look at this story - link taken from Martin Williamson's post on BTTW.
Good for Ugandan cricket for scoring this, and Good on Bankstown Cricket Club for their support. Kenya, with the right approach, could also benefit from similar gestures maybe...

Bangladesh Squad to face Kenya:

Bangladesh have chosen a largely youthful squad to face Kenya in the coming ODI series. There are a couple of old warhorses in the side to add experience, and bring the average age up to 24.5. Don't be fooled though by the age of this squad. Bangladesh's strength lies with its youth, so it is only to be expected that this is reflected in the squad's make up.
I don't know a great deal about the Bangladeshi players, so for those visitors to the site from Bangladesh, excuse my ignorance, and feel free to correct any mistakes I make. The full squad is listed below, but I have singled out a few players whose past performances indicate they could be a threat.
Of the batsmen, we need to look out for Mohammed Asraful. He is the only member of the Bangladesh squad who knows what it is like to score an ODI century - and was incidentally the youngest player ever to do so. He also scored a century against Sri Lanka in the just concluded Test series, and his wicket will be pivotal for Kenya. His ability to make big scores is tempered with a cavalier approach, but there is talk he is growing into his responsibilities. A big dangerman for us.
While no one else has yet scored a century, the following have all recorded 50s:
Aftab Ahmed (h/s 81*), who is also the only bowler to have taken 5 wickets in an innings. With a srtike rate of 71.5, again, taking his wicket early will be crucial.
Habibul Bashir, the captain. He does have a weakness for the short ball, and has often been out hooking. No doubt he can expect some chin music from the likes of Odoyo and Luseno.
Khaled Mashud, the Wicketkeeper (h/s 71*). Highly rated by coach Dav Whatmore and can play his strokes.
Javed Omar (h/s 85*). Like Mashud only averages in the 20s, and has a strike rate around 50. More of a grafter than a threat going after a large total.
Rajin Saleh. One of the up and coming youngsters. He is not bad with the ball either.
Alok Kapali. Has a heap of talent, but doesn't always use it. His selection could be a master stroke, or it could be a disaster. Hopefully Kenya can make sure it is the latter.
Shahriar Nafees. Another youngster to be wary of. Only 20, he has the highest average of the Bangladesh batsmen (28.4), and is handy against the new ball.
Mohammed Rafique. One of the older players in the squad, he is an all rounder who can be handy with either bat or ball. Has a strike rate of 70.5, but only averages 13.4. One of the three bowlers in the side to have taken 4 wickets in an ODI.
Of the bowlers, the two young seamers, Syed Rasel, and Mashrafe Mortaza could be key. Tikolo is expecting flat pitches, and if this is not the case, these two could be a bit of a surprise.
Bangladesh also have a plethora of spin bowlers, which after the Zimbabwe tour may be a bit of a concern. That said, the Zimbabwe and Bangladesh pitches will be light years apart, so the Kenyan batsmen will start with a clean slate come March 17.
How the individual players affect the series will depend on how well they are backed up by the rest of the team. In the past, this has been one of Kenya's main strengths against Bangladesh. This young side has shown more fight than we are used to however, so Kenya will need to be prepared to dig in for a tough battle.
Full Squad:

Global Voices

These guys do a great round up of what is going on in the World's blogs. The link is specifically for blogs related to Kenya. I'm happy to say that this week is now the second week Kenya Cricket has features on this. Last time was for the coverage of the Zimbabwe tour.

Monday, March 13, 2006

ESPN To Show Live Kenya vs Bangladesh Matches

This rather inaccurate article in the Kenya Times was what first alerted me. Apparently, Steve Tikolo is now a fast bowler, and Jimmy Kamande is in the touring team twice: once as himself, and once as James Kabatha! The paragraph about Asif Karim commentating for ESPN was what really grabbed my attention. Hopefully, this will mean that at least those with ESPN in Kenya will have access to the games live, though it may only be ESPN in Asia. Even better would be if one of the free to air channels would pick it up.
In terms of following the seires on the net, I will of course be putting in my 2 bits as regularly as I can, though may miss a fair bit of the first innings as I will be at work. Cricinfo do not seem to have it scheduled, but I would think demand may change this. Either the BBC or ECB will probably be other good bets. I will post any links to coverage I find closer to the time.

Greatest Match Of All Time

It has been a long time coming, but finally a team has managed to score more than 400 in an ODI. Having put on a massive 4-434, Australia could have been forgiven for thinking they had the game won. Hirschelle Gibbs however led a fantastic run chase for the South Africans to overhaul the target with 1 ball and 1 wicket to spare.
Why am I posting on this here? First, it is a phenomenal achievement from both batting line-ups. To get past 400 is a huge milestone, and both teams did what no one else has so far done convincingly. This would not be a self respecting cricket site if I didn't give it the recognition it is due. Second, it relegates to third place, what had been an embarrassing record for Kenya: conceding the most runs in a match. Previously, the record stood at 398, conceded by Kenya at the hands of Sri Lanka in 1996. After yesterdays performances, and what is already being dubbed 'the greatest match of all', Kenya no longer holds this unwanted title. India hate to be outdone in cricket, and with their line-up would be a good pick for the next team to reach 400, and Australia will want to remove their name from this record too. Soon, Kandy and 1996 will be but a hazy memory. Excellent news for cricket, and excellent news for Kenyan pride.

V.O.C Draw first Blood in Nakuru

Nakuru's domestic 45-over competition kicked off yesterday with Akshar 'B' taking on V.O.C at the NAC ground in Nakuru.

Akshar B won the toss and decided to bat on a wicket holding a lot of overnight moisture. V.O.C capitalised with some great Left arm In swinging yorkers by Batuk and a hostile Right arm spell from Ketan, both of whom finished with 4 wickets for the innings. A late fightback from Dipesh and Marvin gave Akshar some respectability, but in the end they were all out for 111. In reply, Ravi gave V.O.C no shortage of trouble, also taking 4 wickets, but Akshar gave away far too many extras to defend a small total, and V.O.C reached the target with 4 wickets still remaining.

Askar 'B' Innings:

Hiren……………....Bowled Batuk………00
Sunil………………..Ct Naren B Batuk…24
Samrat…………….Ct Kirti B Batuk ….00
Ravi………………...Bowled Ketan……...05
Anal………………...Bowled Ketan……...00
Raju ( Menen)….Ct Naren B Ketan…05
Jignesh…………….LBW Ketan………....00
Jaiman…………….Bowled Batuk……...13
Vipul………………..Not Out……………...00
Dipesh……………..Bowled Shanti……..12
Marvin……………..St. Ketan B Shanti.29
All Out……………………………......111

VOC Innings:

Ketan……………….LBW Ravi………….....14
Naren………………Run Out /Jaimin…..15
Minesh…………….Bowled Ravi………....03
Shanti……………..Bowled Ravi………....01
Jayesh……………..Bowled Ravi………....17
Kirti…………………St Ravi B Vipul…….23
Batuk……………….Not Out……………....06
Khilan………………Not Out……………...00
Total for 6 wickets………………..115

VOC Won by 4 wickets

Points for the match:

Akshar 'B':
1 batting point, 2 bowling points.
Total points: 3

1 batting point, 4 bowling points, 12 points for win.
Total points: 17

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Kenyan Players Ranked In Top 100

It is always nice to be pleasantly surprised. I honestly didn't expect to find any Kenyans in the top 100 when I checked the ICC One Day Rankings. However, I see that after the Zimbabwe tour, there are three Kenyans in the top 100 for both batting and Bowling.
The batsmen are:
Steve Tikolo on 402pts, who has moved up 12 places to 82nd (his best was 535 in 1999)
Kennedy Otieno on 369. He comes back into the top 100 at 94th place (his best 461 pts in 1997).
And just sneaking in, Thomas Odoyo in equal 99th spot with 374 pts (his best 455 in 2001).

Kenya's bowlers rank slightly higher:
63rd Thomas Odoyo on 448 pts. Up 13 places. (his best is 493 in 1999).
79th Peter Ongondo on 387 - this is a career highest after his sterling performance in Zimbabwe.
91st Steve Tikolo on 340 (his best 398 in 2003).

These places may not mean a great deal at present, but they will be an indicator of how the Kenyan team improve over the next year. Hopefully, the Bangladesh series will raise the existing players higher on the list, and maybe even bring in a couple of new names. It would be great to see Collins Obuya get back on, and maybe Tanmay Mishra with the bat.

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.

Are you going to follow suit Mr Kibaki?

Hardly likely that the Kenyan president will follow this example (Story on BTTW by Will)- he would probably claim to have hundreds of higher priorities. Imagine though how good it would be for Kenyan cricket to get a similar boost from government. Bermuda's premier has pledged $11million to the sport over the next five years. A great act, and one that will do a huge service to them in the struggle for supremacy at the top of the Associate ladder. Other teams, Kenya included, will have to watch this space very carefully if they cannot find a way to match this sort of funding. Maybe that lottery we were discussing for kenyan sports could figure in this...