Kenya cricket crying out for help
Nairobi, Sep 28 (IANS) There are no funds. Cricketers are becoming rarer. The government is not interested. The international community doesn't seem to care much. Welcome to Kenyan cricket.
Five years after stunning the cricket world by making the cut for the 2003 World Cup semi-finals in South Africa, Kenyan cricket is crying out for help.
'We need to play against stronger teams,' Kenya captain Steve Tikolo told IANS here at the Nairobi Gymkhana. 'We have some talented youngsters but they desperately need exposure,' added the veteran all-rounder, who is still serving as the backbone of his country's national side.
Steve's elder brother Tom - serving as Cricket Kenya's chief executive - was more vocal about the lack of support for Kenya cricket by the cricket world. He stressed that the International Cricket Council (ICC) will have to do more if it wanted to save cricket in Kenya.
'We are under-funded and feel completely ignored,' Tom said. 'The ICC is giving us a grant but it's far from enough. The government help is non-existent while sponsorship is scarce. We are looking towards the international cricket community for support,' he stressed.
The Kenyans surprised the cricket world by reaching the World Cup last-four in 2003 but since then the graph of their performance has taken a nose dive.
They have to feature in the ICC World Cup qualifiers for the 2011 spectacle next April but are lacking in confidence ahead of the 12-nation event which will see the top four making the cut for the quadrennial spectacle to be hosted by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In the ongoing series against the visiting Pakistan Academy, Kenya have looked quite ordinary and Steve blames it on lack of exposure.
'We need to play more competitive games. We have to play against stronger sides otherwise it is going to be very difficult to bring any improvement in our performance,' he added.
Tom said that lack of funds and a dearth of matches against stronger teams have pushed Kenyan cricket backward.
He revealed that Cricket Kenya needs at least $1.2 million to run the sport professionally in the country but there is a shortfall of around $500,000. Kenya gets $450,000 from the ICC, $150,000 from TV rights and $100,000 from a newly-acquired sponsorship from a local company Tusker.
'What we get currently is just not enough,' he said. 'Kenya doesn't have a cricket culture which is why we badly need a proper schools structure to find new players and that is not possible without proper funding.'
Asked why the Kenyan government was not backing cricket in the country, Tom said: 'The government says it is struggling to fund campaigns against HIV Aids so how can it give money to cricket'.
'We would have become a Test side long ago if we had some big brothers,' he said referring to Bangladesh's ascent to the Test arena with the support of Asian powers India and Pakistan. 'Just before Bangladesh became a Test side we were beating them hollow and now we are nowhere in world cricket,' he lamented.
Tom is also unhappy with the lack of support shown to Kenyan cricket by neighbours South Africa and Zimbabwe - the only two Test teams from Africa.
'South Africa haven't visited Kenya in three years in spite of our repeated request while Zimbabwe last came here in 2005. It is really frustrating,' he concluded.
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