Love thy neighbour? Not if it's Kenya
As I scoured the sports websites on Monday, I came across a story on one of the cricket websites which got me livid. Well – angry, concerned, upset and more. The reason for the rise in my blood pressure, was a story saying Australia would be taking on Afghanistan in the UAE as a warm-up to their series against Pakistan. Cricket Australia say that these warm-up matches are being held in an effort to assist with Afghanistan's cricketing development.
Looking at the fixtures of other associates, you cannot help but notice how many games the likes of Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and the rest have, compared to Kenya. This is one of the major reasons that our cricket team is being left behind. Let me break it down for you:
- Ireland: From now until the ICC World T20 tournament starts in September, the Irish have a whole host of matches against top competitive sides. After the current ICC Intercontinental Cup fixtures against Afghanistan, they face Bangladesh in a one-day match before playing three T20 games against the same side. They then take on South Africa A in two unofficial tests, two unofficial ODIs and four unofficial T20 games.
- Scotland: The Scots' only two matches against top sides will be played later this month and inn August when they face Bangladesh and England in a T20 and ODI match respectively. However they do have competitive matches in England against county sides which boast top players from around the world. Games against Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Glamorgan and Durham will be played, and the last match scheduled for them is an ODI against Australia.
- The Netherlands: The Dutch will also play Bangladesh, and then, like Scotland, they face county sides in the Clydesdale Bank 40 tournament. They tackle Gloucestershire, Lancashire and Essex.
Let's now move on to Kenya...
The national side should have been taking on Namibia in the Intercontinental Cup this month, however the ICC decided to move the matches to September due to a security risk in the country. These games now commence on 27 September in Mombasa, and there are no matches for Kenya until then. The only games that will be played are the East Africa Premier League (T20) and East Africa Cup (50-over) competitions that kick off on 4 August.
The other associate countries are lucky, in that their full-member neighbours give them a lot of support in terms of scheduling warm-up matches ahead of big fixtures. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for example ensure that they schedule games against Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland. They also invite these countries to take part in local competitions like the Clydesdale tournament.
On the sub-continent, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan regularly send sides to face the UAE, Afghanistan and other upcoming nations, as they try and help these sides improve their skill.
Kenya however seem to be left behind by their big neighbours. South Africa and Zimbabwe have done very little in terms of helping the country out. I can't remember the last time a South Africa A side was sent to Nairobi to play. It seems that they are more interested in helping other countries improve rather than their African brothers, Kenya.
As I have said countless times, the Kenyan players need to play competitive matches against top sides if they are to improve. Currently they take on Uganda regularly in both T20 and 50-over matches, and though these are exciting, hard-fought games, Uganda (no disrespect to them) are no South Africa or Zimbabwe.
I can only hope that someone from Cricket South Africa or Zimbabwe Cricket is reading this column, and I urge them to start helping the smaller cricketing nations in Africa. Invite us to send the national side to play in your local competitions. Stop and have a few matches in Nairobi when you do travel to England, India and the other countries. Send us an A side once in a while.
Our Kenyan cricketers are talented, and they need to prove to themselves – and the world – that they have what it takes to play on the world stage. They need your help!