Former Kenyan captain Asif Karim, in a recent interview, has lamented the poor state of Kenyan cricket, and has gone to the extent of calling it 'dead'. The retired left-arm spinner, who represented the country in three World Cups, even captaining them in the 1999 edition in England, believes that the authorities haven't done enough to take Kenyan cricket forward, as a result of which other minnow nations have progressed while Kenya have been left behind. Karim also does not see how the country can produce match-winners like Tikolos and Odoyos, which is extremely sad.
Things weren't that bad for Kenya two decades back. In fact, they made an impressive entry into the 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent, defeating the once mighty West Indies in the tournament. The mega event saw Kenya add a dash of nonchalance to the event with gifted players like Steve Tikolo, skipper Maurice Odumbe and all-rounder Thomas Odoyo standing up, and leaving an impression by competing on par with the best in the world. Although they did not have many match-winning players in their side, the likes of Ravindu Shah, Suji brothers, Kennedy Otieno and Asif Karim contributed to the team's cause credibly.
From the experience of 1996, the Kenyans were only expected to get better, and while they were not as impressive in the 1999 World Cup in England, they remained competitive. In fact, in their initial years in international cricket, they actually dominated Bangladesh, in spite of the fact that the latter had more international experience. It has only been in recent years that the tables have turned. Even since the retirement of their big names, they haven't been able to find suitable replacements, and this has reflected in their disappointing results in recent years.
There was no inkling of what was in store for Kenya during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, which was expected to be Kenya's watershed year in cricket. After all, they had made it to the semi-finals that year, at the expense of some much bigger sides. Of course, they were aided by the flawed format in the event, which made their entry into the semis certain after just one big upset. Still, under the guidance of Sandeep Patil as coach, they performed admirably and, under any circumstances, reaching the semis of a World Cup was no mean feat.
As Karim rightly explained, enough hasn't been done to further the cause of Kenyan cricket, as a result of which they are struggling for survival. The domestic structure in place isn't aiding the coming through of more big names on the lines of Tikolo and Odoyo. In a cricket-starved country like Kenya it is difficult to produce such match-winners in consecutive eras, which is why Kenya has fallen since their big names have gone away. The menace of corruption, with Maurice Odumbe being banned, hasn't helped their cause. Sadly, more dark days seem in store for Kenya.
--By A Cricket Analyst