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CW World Cup Countdown. Day 6 - Kenya
01 Mar 2007
By: Kev Goughy


As part of a series of articles leading up to the World Cup, Cricket Web presents a daily review on the background, players and prospects a specific competing team, starting with the minnows and building up to the favourites. Today we feature Kenya.

Introduction

It's been four years since Kenya reached the dizzying heights of the 2003 Cricket World Cup semi-final and as expected things have changed. However, they have not changed for the better.

Instead of filling the time by lobbying for test status and building on their remarkable performance, Kenyan cricket has seen pay disputes, player strikes, the shutting down of its cricket board and a match fixing scandal.

A potentially golden era for Kenyan cricket was replaced by infighting and regression on the cricket field.

However, things are starting to improve and the recent past is being put firmly behind them. Opportunities may have been lost but Kenyan cricket is on the rise again. The Board, the ICC and the Kenyan Government are now looking at securing the medium term financial security of the players. After an 18 month hiatus from ODI cricket, the Kenyans are back playing regularly and a group of young, talented cricketers are coming through.

After an ignominious period in the Country?s cricketing history, Kenyan cricket is back making positive progress with young cricketers like Hiren Varaiya and Tanmay Mishra forming the bedrock of the future.

This World Cup may be too early for the newly organized Kenyans to make an impact. Drawn against New Zealand and England, it is unlikely they will be able to make an impression and hit the headlines as they did in 2003. However, the tournament should not be completely without success as the final team making up Group C is the inexperienced and eminently beatable Canada.

Leadup to the Tournament

Kenya's leadup to the tournament has been a successful one. The players are increasingly guaranteed financial stability and the Country's cricketing politics are apparently becoming more harmonious. These positive turn of events have reaped rewards on the cricket field. In February this year, Kenya became ICC World Cricket League Division One Champions (beating Scotland in the final) and they have qualified for the Twenty/20 World Cup to be held in South Africa later in the year.

This success has come at just the right time to raise team spirits coming into the World Cup even though this success has come against Associate members rather than the stronger Full Member nations.

Kenya are in the enviable position of having the highest ranked bowler (Peter Ongondo), batsman (Steve Tikolo) and allrounder (Thomas Odoyo) from countries outside the main 10 Test nations.

Key Players

Steve Tikolo - For over a decade now Steve Tikolo has been the face of Kenyan cricket and probably the best batsman outside the major nations. At 35 years of age, Tikolo is in the twilight of his career and 2007 will probably be his final World Cup. Despite his advancing years, Tikolo remains a special talent with the bat and a tricky and awkward off spinner. For Kenya to achieve any success then Tikolo must lead from the front.

Peter Ongondo - At 30 years of age and having close to 50 One Day International caps, Ongondo is an experienced and successful campaigner. Well short of express pace, he is an accurate bowler with the ability to get movement in the air. Ongondo is entering the World Cup after destroying the Associates in the ICC World Cricket League Division One where he took 15 wickets at an average of under 13.

Strengths

High spirits and lack of expectation. With the events of the previous 4 years, very few people believe that Kenya can make an impact on this World Cup. Due to this, and the fact Kenyan cricket is back on the rise, Kenya can play freely and with little pressure. This lack of expectation and no fear of failure could lead Kenya to spring an upset.

Kenya also has an interesting mix of World Cup veterans and exciting young talent. Winning the World League showed that they have players capable of making contributions. If the players are capable of putting together a supreme team performance then Kenya could surprise onlookers and further progress Kenyan cricket down the road of rebuilding.

When discussing the strengths of Kenyan cricket it is impossible to ignore Steve Tikolo. There is no doubt that the availability of a player of Tikolo's caliber is a huge advantage for a smaller cricketing nation. Tikolo's value is not only as a scorer of runs and taker of wickets but as an inspiration to the younger players and leader of the team.

Weaknesses

The '2003 Glory Generation' is getting older and the good, young players coming through are very inexperienced and unproven against Test quality opposition. This Kenyan team will be heavily reliant on a few 'old heads'.

Batting wise, apart from Tikolo, there are few, if any, proven run scorers and the bowling lacks the penetration to put opponents on the back foot.

Previous World Cups

Many would be surprised to find out that Kenya have a higher World Cup winning percentage than both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Kenya has saved a lot of their best cricket for World Cups and has provided the viewer a number of memorable moments.

1996- First Round
1999- First Round
2003- Semi Final (lost to India)

Highest World Cup Total- 254/7 v Sri Lanka, 1996
Lowest World Cup Total- 104 v West Indies, 2003
Highest Individual World Cup Score- 96 by Steve Tikolo v Sri Lanka, 1996

Predicted Finish for this World Cup 11th

Kenya will be far too strong for a hapless Canada but equally out of their depth against the Test playing nations of England and New Zealand. A first round exit is most likely but Kenya will not be embarrassed, just outclassed. They will score close to 200 against England and New Zealand but that will be far too few given the scores their bowlers will concede.

This tournament has come too soon for the Kenyans to make a big impression on the field, as they are only just now getting their house in order. Winning or losing isn?t the priority of this team. More important is making the statement that Kenyan cricket is no longer a laughing stock and the nation is back on the international cricketing map. If they can avoid embarrassment and any major internal disputes, this World Cup will be a stepping stone to future growth.

Kenya World Cup Squad

SO Tikolo (captain), TM Odoyo (vice-captain), R Bhudia, JK Kamande, T Mishra, CO Obuya, DO Obuya, N Odhiambo, PJ Ongondo, LN Onyango, MA Ouma (wicketkeeper), ML Patel, RD Shah, AO Suji, HA Varaiya

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