A sad end to one of the most promising cricketing nations….
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa was being considered as a fascinating tournament in many ways. However, the world still remembers it, thanks to the dream run Kenya had in that event. They reached the last four stage, beating Test playing nations like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Till date, that Steve Tikolo-led side is the only ‘Associate’ team to reach the semi-final of a World Cup.
Well, 15 years later, the sport in this East African nation is on the verge of an extinction.
Kenya no longer have the One-Day International (ODI) status. Once considered as a potential Test-playing nation, now they are languishing at ICC Division Three. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Kenya was undoubtedly the strongest Associate nation and used to feature in ICC events on a frequent basis. Unfortunately, the current national team couldn’t even qualify for the last World Cup as well as the past three editions of ICC World T20. Furthermore, they failed to book a place in the recent ICC World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe.
This rapid decline of Kenya cricket is a classic case study for a research paper. Administrative failure, corruption, financial crisis, lack of support from the government — there are multiple reasons behind this fallout. However, according to Aasif Karim, the former skipper and a sporting legend of Kenya, the basic reason behind this slump is the apathy of the government towards cricket. The men in power have always treated cricket like a colonial sport and haven’t cared about its growth.
Hence, the game has steadily plunged into calamity.
Meanwhile, cricket has its existence in Kenya almost for last 70 years. British brought the game to this country. But after independence, the Asian community nurtured it. From being a community sport initially, it started to spread its wings slowly and attracted the natives as well.
In 1951, the first time a cricket match was played in Kenya when the hosts took on Tanganyika. Later in 1953, the Kenyan Cricket Association was formed. In the 1975 World Cup, there were seven Kenyan cricketers featured in the East Africa squad. Since 1982, they have started playing under their own country’s flag.
In the late 1980’s, cricket was flourishing in Kenya and the main reason behind this growth was their strong club cricket structure. During the last 1980s top Indian players like Sanjay Manjrekar, Sandeep Patil, Chandrakant Pandit, Pravin Amre, Balvinder Sandhu and Karsan Ghavri used to feature in club cricket in Nairobi. During that period, even locals started to embrace the game as there used to be 70 to 80 local Africans playing in the Nairobi Club League.
In 1994, the ICC Trophy was held in Nairobi and as expected, Kenya did exceptionally well. They were the runners-up in the event and qualified for the 1996 World Cup in India — a tournament, in which they ended up beating the two-time world champion West Indies.
In 1997, Kenya registered its first-ever victory against India at Gwalior and also reached the final of ICC Trophy to qualify for the 1999 World Cup alongside Bangladesh. Though they couldn’t win a single game in the 1999 World Cup, but their reputation of being the strongest non-Test playing nation remained intact. In fact, the period between the late 90s and the early 2000s was the golden era of Kenya cricket, followed by the heroics of 2003.
However, despite the success, neither the cricket association nor the government was serious about developing the game in Kenya. There was a lack of capability and transparency amongst the administrators, for which sponsors stopped backing Kenya cricket. At that time, their domestic needed an improvement, especially in the red-ball format. Instead, the association was unable to organise the existing tournaments due to lack of funding. Also, there was no negotiation with the full members and ICC to provide more opportunities to play against the top teams in the world. In fact, there were not enough ‘A’ tours as well.
In 2004, amid a financial crisis, Kenya Cricket Association was dissolved and Cricket Kenya was formed, but there was no change in its attitude.
Gradually, Kenya cricket was being isolated in the world.
According to the latest development, following national team’s poor show in the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia as well as in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, the government has disbanded Cricket Kenya and replaced it by an interim committee.
It has been learnt, for the last 12 years, Kenya has cumulatively received over 17 million US Dollar from the ICC for the development of the game and administrative purposes, but there is not even a single page of statements of accounts of how the money has been utilsed.
So, the same old cycle continues and this time things might get even worse. In the recent past, we have seen ICC has maintained a strict regulation against government interference in cricket administration. The Cricket Association of Nepal is currently under suspension for the same reason. Well, unfortunately, it seems, Kenya cricket is also heading the same way.