Kenya has been one of those cricketing nations who have time and again been very close to being awarded the Test match membership. Unfortunately for Kenya, their on-field performances have dipped at inopportune moments and issues associated with match-fixing, payment disputes and in-fighting within the cricket board have put paid to their chances. Earlier, they had played in the 1975 World Cup but as a part of two other countries – Uganda and Tanzania – to form East Africa. Later, in 1994 they ended second in the ICC Trophy to qualify for the 1996 World Cup and haven’t looked back since.
Kenya, by virtue of being a part of the previous World Cup in 2007 in the West Indies had gained automatic entry into the final 12 stage of the qualifiers and were led by Steve Tikolo in the qualifiers. They were placed in the Group B along with Netherlands, UAE, Afghanistan, Bermuda and Denmark and after losing their first game to the Dutch side, went on to win the remaining four to top the group. In the Super Eights, they finished second in the group with four wins and qualified for the final and for the 2011 World Cup.
Kenya’s experience at playing much more international cricket than most of the other Associates and Affiliates is their biggest strength. They also rely a lot on their spinners given the number of expatriates that are settled in the country. The reliance on spin will ensure that the side will be able to garner a little advantage out of the sub-continent wickets.
The in-fighting has led the board to suspend a few players and the talent cupboard has looked barren over the previous few months. Expecting them to spring a surprise will probably be expecting a little too much.
Kenya’s best opportunity will be to beat Zimbabwe and Canada and hope for a miracle to be able to overcome some of the other top-nations in their group.
One gets the sense that a loss to Zimbabwe and more so to Canada will break their morale totally and could be a sign of things to come.
Their best record in the 2003 World Cup when a combination of freak results, good cricket and luck led Kenya to the semi-finals where they lost to India. Sandeep Patil was the coach of the side and achieved an excellent result for the team. Unfortunately, the same was not replicated in 2007 when they crashed out in the 1st round with just a win over Canada to show.
Jimmy Kamande will lead the side in place of Tikolo who had a fall-out with the cricket board. While Tikolo will continue to play, Kamande should captain the team through to the World Cup.
Despite all the issues, Tikolo will be the one player to watch out for. Collins Obuya, whose bowling was instrumental in getting the side to the semi-finals in 2003 will now look to star with the bat.