Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Vital Match: Kenya vs Canada Intercontinental Cup preview

Well, it is less than 2 hours to the start of play in Toronto if my understanding of the datelines is correct, and the Kenyan team will be psyching themselves up for what is a must-win match if we are to keep alive any hopes of progressing to the Intercontinental Cup final. Having given away 6 first innings points to the Dutch in our first game, we must now win the remaining two if we want to compete in succesive finals. Canada, playing their first game of the tournament, will no doubt feel that with home advantage they can put a dent in our hopes. Going on past performance, relative strength on paper and the levels of professionalism shown in preparation however, this match should end in victory for Kenya.
Six of the Kenyan batsmen have scored a total of eleven 50s and six centuries between them in previous Intercontinental Cup matches. Steve Tikolo has twice scored double centuries. Compare this to the Canadians who only have one centurion in their ranks, Don Maxwell. They have scored a total of 8 half centuries and one century. In a competition that has so far this year been marked by teams dominating with the bat, the ability to convert starts to big scores is paramount. Kenya has also had the advantage of not only twice reaching the semi finals of the event, last year we also reached the final where we fell to Ireland at the last hurdle. Tikolo and his men will no doubt want to go one better this time, and that means they must account for Canada over the next four days. Kenya's top three batsmen average 125, 48 and 35 (Tikolo, Modi and K.Obuya) in the tournament. Canada's best three average 46,44 and 33 (Ali, Davidson and Bagai).
In terms of experience, the Kenyans also seem to have the advantage over their opponents. We have players who have played more of the longer version of the game, and who have been exposed to a higer level of cricket for longer. In Tikolo, we have perhaps the best batsman never to have played Test cricket, and he is backed up by a good blend of youth and experience. Canada too have some class players, but the difference in experience at this length cricket should be there for us to exploit. In terms of training too, Kenya have been hard at work for a while under Roger Harper. Canada it seems have only come together recently to train, and this too should stand us in good stead.
So we are favourites to win, and there is the pressure to do so due to the draw with The Netherlands. What happens on the pitch however will depend on the individual performances and how the teams stack up on the day. We have been known to fail against weaker teams before, and must be on our guard against complacency.
One of the key players for Kenya will be Steve Tikolo, both with the bat and also with the captaincy. If he lives up to his average, Kenya will be looking strong. If he plays his best, we should have Canada on the ropes. Kennedy Obuya must step up to the mark and give the rest of the batsmen a good platform from which to build. Canada's strength will be in their opening bowlers, Osinde and Bhatti, who many tout as the best opening pair in the Associates. It will be up to Obuya and his opening partner to blunt this attack and allow our batsmen a bite at their second string bowlers. With the ball, I believe that both Thomas Odoyo and Peter Ongondo are dangerous enough to give the Canadians plenty of trouble, and young spinner Hiren Variaya should also cause a few jitters.
I have not yet found a website that will be doing live updates. Due to the time difference, the best I will be able to do is put in my two bob's worth near the end of each day's play.
Some possibilities to try during the match could be:
If anyone finds somewhere. please let me know.

Rain Delays Coast Season Opener

The six-a-side tournament scheduled for this weekend as the curtain raiser to the CCA's 2006 has had to be postponed due to rain. 8 teams were confirmed to take part in the event that will now probably be played nest week, so long as weather allows. One assumes that the full CCA season will then follow on directly the next weekend.

Friday, July 28, 2006

NPCA Preview - 2006 Week 1

Fixtures for the weekend are as follows, with my tips in bold. With Jaffery withdrawn, there will only be one Super Division match. Considering the top 13 players in the country are away on national duty, perhaps not such a bad thing.
Super Division:
Kanbis Sports Club 'A'
versus Kongonis Cricket Club 'A' at Eastleigh Sec Sch
Nbi Gymkhana Sports Club 'A' Bye
Aga Khan Sports Center 'A' Bye
As defending champions, Kanbis would normally be expected to win. However, they will be without their main players who are in Canada for the National team, so Kongonis have their greatest chance to pull off an upset.
Kongonis Cricket Club 'B'
versus Parklands Sports Club at Rhinos Nairobi Club
Ngara Sports Club versus Premier Club at Ngara S.C.
Swamibapa Cricket Club 'B' versus Shree Cutchi Leva Youth League at Pindolia Academy
Ruaraka Sports Club 'A' versus Kanbis Sports Club 'B' at Ruaraka S.C
Not knowing the team lists makes predictions hard, but I have simply gone on last years form. I chose Kongonis over newly promoted Parklands as they played Div 1 last year, though the latter may be looking to jump another division by next season. Similarly with Kanbis over Ruaraka, though again the latter may be on a charge after their promotion.
Aga Khan Sports Center 'B' versus Nbi Gymkhana Sports Club 'B' at Aga Khan S.C.
Qutbis Sports Club 'A' versus Nbi Institute at Seifee Park
Stray Lions Cricket Club 'A' versus Nairobi Nookers Cricket Club at Simba Union
Again, I have slected the expected winners from last years positions on the table.
Golden XI versus Ruaraka Sports Club 'B' at Highridge Pr Sch
Telca Cricket Club versus Nbi Jaffery Sports Club 'B' at Nairobi School
Parklands Sports Club - Ndovu versus Oshwal XI at Parklands S.C.
Sir Ali Muslim Club 'B' versus Stray Lions 'B' at Sir Ali Muslim Club
Difficult to pick, especially with the new teams coming in.
All matches will start at 10:00am on Sunday July 30th.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jaffery Pull Out Of Super Division

Breaking news from Nairobi is that Nairobi Jaffery have withdrawn their A side from the Super Division of the 2006 NPCA League. All players registered to play for Jaffery A will now be eliglible for a free transfer to clubs of their choice. This is very sad news for Kenyan cricket, and is hopefully only a short term problem. Jaffery have confirmed participation of their second string side who will turn out in Division 3. No reasons have yet been given for the withdrawal, though no doubt we shall hear soon enough. Jaffery have been one of the top clubs in the country, and it is hoped they will get themselves sorted out in time for next season. In the meantime, their presence will be sorely missed.
Fixtures for the season are also out and also the new rule changes. I will post on these in the morning.

Ravindu On The Mend

Former Kenyan opener and arguably most technically proficient batsman is reported to be on the mend. He was being asked his thoughts on the current Kenyan team yesterday by the Nation, and said that his rehabilitation was going well, and that he would begin testing his knee soon with light training. If all goes to plan he will be back in action for his club, Nairobi Gymkhana, in the upcoming NPCA league. This is good news for Kenya, but needs to be treated with caution. His return, should he be able to regain his form at 33, would no doubt significantly strengthen the batting line up, but he will need to prove his ability again in the domestic season before being called up. He has sadly been absent from the game too long (since 2004) to be an automatic pick. That said, I believe he has the talent to bounce back, and I would expect him to easily prove his suitability should his knee not give him any more problems.
On the subject of the national team, Ravindu says he is confident in them both for the Canada trip and for the future. He said he expected the youngsters in the squad would benefit from the guidance of the more experienced players and would develop into good players for Kenya in the future. Nothing new there, but nice to hear it from a senior player anyhow.
Chris Tsuma's article goes on to talk about some of the youngsters in the team and who is likely to open with Kennedy Obuya as well as the upcoming Umpire's Seminar.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Regional Umpires Seminar For Nairobi

The media release from Hoosain Ayob, ICC Regional Develpoment Manager for Africa reads as follows:
"Umpiring is fast becoming the single most important position to hold in the cricket arena. To ensure that the best is always given off all the umpires in Africa, the first ever East Africa Umpires Seminar has been planned in Kenya.
The East Africa Umpires Seminar will be held Nairobi Club on the 29th – 30th July 2006. Umpires from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda will have the expertise of ICC International Associates and Affiliates Umpire Subhash Modi. It is indeed good to note that a female umpire from Tanzania, Lucy Silas Mayunga, will be benefiting from this all important seminar.
The Theme for this event has been set as “Achieving the dream – Success comes through commitment and hard work”. The topics to be discussed vary from forging relationships both on and off the field to the way forward.
It is hoped that the umpires accredited through these seminars will be able to strengthen the African Panel and ensure that a few more umpires from Africa attain the all important fate of being selected to officiate in an international match."
Ths seminar will be essentially based on the recent ICC Umpires Seminar held in Dubai – Conducted by Darrell Hair (ICC Elite Panel Umpire) and which included as presenters/speakers: Malcolm Speed (ICC CEO), Chris Briers (ICC Development Operations Manager), Doug Cowie (ICC Director of Match Referees and Umpires), and Simon Taufel (ICC Elite Panel Umpire).
Speakers and presenters for the Kenya seminar will include:
Tom Tikolo (CEO Cricket Kenya):
- Welcome & Introduction.
Samir Inamder (Chairman Cricket Kenya):
- Important role played by East African Umpires
- Way Forward for Umpires.
Abdul Sattar (Chairman of K.C.U&SA):
- Umpires Experiences .
Aasif Karim (former Kenya Cricket Captain):
- Umpires Relationships with the Captains, Players, Coaches and Officials – On and off the field.
Subhash Modi (ICC Associate/Affiliate Panel Umpire):
- Development structure for ICC Associate / Affiliate International panel.
- ICC playing conditions – recent interpretations and instructions.
- The finger that makes or mars the game of cricket and players behaviour thereon.
- How to become a Good Umpire.
- Umpiring and Cricket Indiscipline.
- The Umpire and his Empire.
David Odhiambo (Kenyan Umpire):
- Umpires Relationship with the third team(Scorers).
The seminar will also include discussions on Umpiring matters, fieldcraft technique sessions, umpiring videos, question and answer forums and a performance assessments. There will also be an opportunity for the delegates to present their opinions on what they need from ICC Africa to make the EA Umpires Successful.
This is a fantastic initiative by the ICC and respective Kenyan bodies, and will help to further strengthen cricket in the region. There is no doubt that good umpiring helps raise the standard of cricket, and it is great to see this sentiment embraced by all parties in Kenya. My one worry is that the timing of this seminar will have an affect on the umpires scheduled for the NPCA matches this weekend. Hopefully something will be sorted out to ensure the league still goes ahead while the umpires don't miss out on the seminar.

Dates Set For Coast League

The Coast Cricket Association have set August 6th for the date on which the 2006 CCA League is due to commence. No details yet on the schedule, but there will be a six-a-side tournament held on the 30th July as a curtain raiser. I will try to get more details on the teams taking part, the draw, etc.
This now means that all three of the active provinces are either playing or about to start their seasons. There seems to be a general air of co-operation around, so hopefully we will be able to carry all the scores and news updates. It is great to see all players around Kenya able to play, and hopefully this will encourage others to take up the sport. Here's to a great 2006 Domestic Season.

Kenya vs. Canada Three Sleeps To Go

Not long to go before the Intercontinental Cup match between Kenya and Canada. The Kenyans jetted out of Nairobi yesterday, so should be arriving soon to acclimatise. According to this article on Cricinfo, our hosts are somewhat stirred up by their selectors announcing that no one is guaranteed a place at the World Cup. While this is a fair enough call in my book, and was no doubt intended as a spur to the players, it seems to have had a negative effect if cricinfo are to be believed. Not great news for Canada, but just fine as far as Kenya are concerned. Anything that gives us that extra edge is to be welcomed.
Nation Sports Page Carries a story with some good quotes from Steve Tikolo calling for the experienced players to show the youngsters how it is done. He sounds optimistic about our chances, but also realistic about the imprtance of a win.
Oscar Pilipili in The Standard also focusses on Tikolo joining the squad, on his views on the return of Kennedy Obuya and the inclusion of the three youngsters. Both development were welcomed by the captain, but he also expects the youngsters to prove they deserve their spot. Interestingly, the Standard also carries Steve's figures while playing for Haverigg, and they show him to be in pretty good touch. He scored 197 runs at an average of 49.25 for the club including two half centuries. Hopefully, he can do even more when Kenya bat against Canada.
Meanwhile on Cricket Web, George Roberts previews Bangladesh's Safari to Zimbabwe and Kenya. Well worth a read, and a includes a wonderful description of Steve Tikolo, whom he calls "Indisputably the best batsman outside of the Test arena."
Damn right!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kericho Untouchable In Akshar League after 17 Games

Kericho's victory over the under-manned Akshar A leaves them as undisputed Minor Premiers with 4 matches left to play in the league. It is likely however that the final will be a replay of the weekend's match and next time Akshar A will almost certainly field a full team. Their loss means that is it still possible for them to lose out to Eldoret, however they will need to score less than 3 bonus points, while Eldoret will need to get the maximum 20.

Akshar A Pay The Price For Incomplete Team

Akshar A, playing with only 7 players and two substitutes as fielders, won the toss and decided to field. Dilip struck in the first over with two inswinging yorkers to bowl Jigar and Yatish for ducks. Jignesh counter attacked by hitting two fours and a six in a quick fire 18 of just 20 balls, but no one in Kericho really got on top of the bowling. 7 starts did however mean that they were able to coax the score along to 122 before they were all out.
In reply, Akshar A really missed not having a complete team, and despite a battling 42 from Jogesh were always going to struggle. When he retired hurt, there was too much left for the few remaining batsmen and Akshar A folded on 100 'all-out' - 22 runs short.
Kericho innings:
Vipul……..…NOT OUT…….......……….....17
Akshar A innings:
Jogesh…………..Retired Hurt….....……..42
Ghanshyam…….NOT OUT…......……….02
Kericho win by 22 runs.
Kericho: Batting - 1, Bowling - 4, Win - 12, Total - 17
Akshar A: Batting - 1, Bowling - 4, Total 5

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.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Kenya Squad 2006

I thought it was time this was updated with the current squads.
Steve Tikolo (Capt).
Thomas Odoyo (V.Cpt).
Hitesh Modi.
Kennedy Obuya.
Tanmay Mishra.
Peter Ongondo.
Nehemiah Odhiambo.
Jimmy Kamande.
Tony Suji.
Brijal Patel.
Timothy Muange.
Hiren Variaya.
Collins Obuya.
Non Travelling Reserves:
David Obuya.
Josephat Ababu.
Darshit Shah.

Steve Tikolo (Capt).
Thomas Odoyo.
Tony Suji.
Peter Ongondo.
Collins Obuya.
Jimmy Kamande.
Josephat Ababu.
Brijal Patel.
Nehemiah Odhiambo.
Kennedy Obuya.
Alfred Luseno.
Malhar Patel.
Tanmay Mishra.
Rajesh Bhudia.
Ashish Karia.
Alex Obanda.
Jadhavji Laxman.
Hiren Varaiya.
Timothy Muange.
Jadhavji Jeshani.
Darshit Shah.
Rashmi Gami.
Stewart Kayne.
Maurice Ouma.
Hitesh Modi.
Amit Bhudia.
Ragheb Aga.
Ali Sheikh.
Elijah Otieno.
David Obuya.

An Door Opening For Kenya?

Canada's reluctance/inability to host the proposed ODI series between India and West Indies in September has left the BCCI looking for a new 'neutral' venue. According to the BBC, venues being considered are The Netherlands, Malasia and Singapore. My view is why not Kenya? The benefits would be as follows:
  • We have hosted neutral games before, and have shown we have the capacity to do so.
  • We have a team that would be able to provide both teams good competition as a warm up before the series. This would not only benefit the visiting sides in acclimatising, but would give Kenya two more ODIs against Test opposition. Even better, they could make it a tri-series.
  • Climate wise, September would be just about perfect.
  • In terms of crowds, both teams would find a supporter base in Nairobi which would mean matches played in a good atmosphere. It would also mean sponsors would get there money's worth and so would be queing up for the opportunity.
  • Kenya have world class hotels to host the visiting teams and officials. Plus there is the added bonus of our unparalleled gameparks.
  • It would give Kenya further practice at hosting big matches before the World League in January.
  • Kenya already has good cricketing relations with both countries. These would be further strengthened.
  • From Kenya's point of view, it would be a huge help in growing interest in the game domestically, and would provide a boost for tourism as well.
  • Other than the proposed tour by Uganda, which could be moved earlier or later in September to accomodate this series, September is free as far as Kenya are concerned.

Apparently, the decision needs to be made this week in order to plan ahead, but if we could get our feet in the crack in the door, it would be a very welcome addition to the calendar.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

NPCA Season Now Starting Next Week

Following a meeting between the Umpires Association and the NPCA, the new season is now scheduled to start on Sunday the 30th of July 2006. NPCA report Friday's meeting had positive results and the Umpires Association stated their commitment to "be part and parcel of the new cricket movement and its growth." This is certainly a positive step from the two bodies, and hopefully we can look forward to a season where the new rules and regulations take the game forward.
The new regulations and the season schedule will be released to the clubs at the Captains meeting on Monday 24th July. I shall of course post on the coming weekend's fixtures as soon as I get news from Nairobi. On that vein, thanks to NPCA for their progress reports. Things are looking up for Nairobi cricket already, and the season has not yet even begun.