Saturday, April 18, 2009

Steve Tikolo calls time on his international career.

We knew it had to happen at some stage soon, but that does not lessen the blow. As of next season, Kenya will be without the services of star player, captain and talisman, Steve Tikolo.

To my mind by far he is the best player never to have been given the opportunity to play a Test match and better than many that have.

He will be missed both with bat and ball and I fear it will be a long time before we produce another of his calibre.

As well as a top player, he is a top bloke and I think that is reflected in the timing and the manner of his announcement. No big fanfare, just contentment in a job done to give the next generation a chance to play in a World Cup and a quiet acknowledgement that it is time to move on. As with so many of his innings for his country, a touch of true class.

While he may be retiring from international cricket as a player I think this is by far the last season we will see from him in relation to Kenyan cricket. He has a huge passion for development of the game and his influence has had a fantastic affect on so many of the players that have come through under his stewardship. The contract of Andrew Kirsten expires at the end of this tournament and perhaps now is the right time for Kenya to look for homegrown talent to coach their team. I can think of no one better both in terms of leadership, experience and vision for the game.

On the latter quality, he has spoken about the need to spread the game further in the country and has some very good ideas on how that can be done. Like his brother Tom, he would prove an able administrator and would certainly be one that would draw the support of the players, who can perhaps feel they could have been looked after better by both past and present regimes.

While the pads and bat will be put away, at least at international level at the end of this season, there should still be time to see the great man in action a few more times. Having qualified for the World Cup and retained ODI status, Kenya should have fixtures aplenty in the upcoming year. For those who have not experienced the joy of watching Steve Tikolo bat, use these opportunities to get to a game and savour a true talent. It may be a while before Kenya sees his like again.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Last Roll of the Dice

Tomorrow Kenya take on Ireland in what is a huge match for cricket in the country. With the Super 8 campaign stuttering at best and catastrophic at worst, we now need a win against the best team in the competition to ensure qualification for the World Cup.

So far in the super 8s, Kenya has lost heavily to Canada, scraped past a poor Scotland (who are themselves in danger of not only missing out on the WC, but also of losing ODI status)and then been utterly thrashed by Namibia - a team the other contenders for WC spots have had little difficulty with.

The final fixtures are such that Kenya could still qualify even if we lose, but it would take other results to go our way - not a route any Kenyan fan wants to go down.
Sitting on 6 points, Kenya are still just 3rd on Net Run Rate ahead of Netherlands and the UAE. What is a concern is that if both of these teams win their final games and Kenya lose, we will miss out on the World Cup. If all 3 teams lose, then NRR could not only determine the WC spots, but ODI status as well.

For Kenya, there could still be a happy ending. A win, however unlikely given yesterday's capitulation, could still potentially place us second and facing Ireland in the final. It would need The result of the Canada-Netherlands game to be a tight win to the Netherlands and our own win to be big, but it is possible. Worst case scenario if we lose is to miss out on the World Cup and possibly even finish outside the top 6 on NRR, though this would need an unlikely combination of results. Should the latter eventuate, we may as well bid adieu to the game in Kenya. It is that serious a predicament.

In short, very much all to play for and Kenya's top order who have so far failed to impress at this stage of the tournament will need to really step up to prove they deserve their places. After tomorrow, there will be no more chances. No more opportunities at redemption.