Once known giantkillers now secluded in corner

Kenya

Udit Khar

Whenever you talk about biggest cricketing upsets, the Kenyan cricket team will always
come to mind.

If you were born in the 1990s then you know what the Kenyan team was once capable of on a cricketing field. Those were the days when Thomas Odoyo, Steve Tikolo, and the Suji brothers were leading the show.

It all started with the 1996 World Cup. Kenya started their campaign in lacklustre fashion against India in a one-sided affair, but after three consecutive losses, they caught the West Indies off-guard.

They bowled their opponents out for just 93 whilst chasing 166, one of the biggest cricketing upsets at the time, virtually unrivalled until seven years later in 2003, or in 2007, when Pakistan were brought undone by Ireland.

Since the victory, Kenya has 15 ODI victories against test playing nations which includes two against India, one against Sri Lanka, and a further victory against the boys from the Caribbean.

The 1999 World Cup campaign wasn’t fruitful for the Kenyans who lost all of their group
matches, however the biggest moment of their cricketing history was the 2003 World Cup,
in which they partly hosted with South Africa and Zimbabwe.

While emerging in talent, Kenya were by no means favourites before any match, though in the group stages they finished second in their group, a famous victory against Sri Lanka.

It just didn’t stop there. In the Super Six stage they defeated Zimbabwe comprehensively
and almost had caught India off-guard with India reeling 24-3 while chasing 225. However, captain Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh had other plans and rescued the Indian ship.

Their adventurous journey just didn’t stop there. During their Super Six encounter against Australia, from 3/3 they went onto score 174/8, one of the most courageous batting recoveries many cricket lovers would still acknowledge considering Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andy Bichel were all in their prime form steaming in. Kenya were no mugs with the ball either. During the Australian chase, they had left Aussies dumbstruck at 118/5. Australians may have won the match in the end, but Kenya stole the heart.

What led to the downfall

Kenya’s last World Cup campaign was way back in 2011 which included one-sided
sorrows. From once being Test status contenders, Kenyan Cricket is now forced to pick up the pieces, owing to economic struggles, corruption and a lack of infrastructure linking old and new generations of players. This has been somewhat remedied by some strong performances in Cricket World Cup Challenge League.

If Kenyan cricket wants to turn back the tables and regain its former glory they need to get the basics right, get their domestic structure back in order. They should learn their lessons and start revamping it’s domestic cricket structure. Ensure school cricket is introduced in as many provinces they can, eventually creating pipeline of quality players. Ensure cricket is marketed properly amongst the local audience, and reignite their interest.

A long way to go though, but its never too late; the legacy Odoyos and Tikolos to be taken forward and Kenyan cricket back with its former force.

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