x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Rebuilding Kenya hitting new lows since 1996 World Cup

Coach confident of bouncing back in two years after the downturn which he attributes to resting on past laurels.

Mohammed Shahzad, the Afghanistan opener, gave his team a fiery start that they wanted. Pawan Singh / The National
Mohammed Shahzad, the Afghanistan opener, gave his team a fiery start that they wanted. Pawan Singh / The National

Kenya 89 (37.2 overs)

Afghanistan 95-2 (17.3 overs)

Toss Kenya, chose to bat

Kenya Ouma 24; Hassan 4-19, Zadran 2-16, Shenwari 2-14

Afghanistan Mangal 52 not out, Shahzad 33; Varaiya 2-12

SHARJAH // Ten years ago, one of these two countries was just putting a national team together for the first time in a foreign sport they had learnt in exile.

At the same time the other nation was basking in the glow of having reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, let alone scrapping to reach the final tournament itself.

How times change. While Kenyan cricket has wilted over the past decade after that high of a last-four appearance in South Africa, Afghanistan continues an inexorable path to orbit.

As many as six million people were expected to tune in to yesterday’s cricket coverage broadcast on One Television, a Pashtu language channel back in Afghanistan. The thirst for the imported sport has reached the extent that 25,000 people attended a recent provincial match in Kabul, according to Hamid Hassan, the fast-bowler.

Meanwhile, whether Kenya’s latest aberration on the cricket field will have even been noticed back at home is a moot point.

The Kenyans are a pale shadow of the Steve Tikolo-inspired generation of 2003. In two matches against the Afghans on tour to the UAE so far they have managed scores of 56 and 89.

Their eight-wicket loss yesterday, with 193 deliveries left unused by the Afghans, was every bit as comprehensive as the 106-run defeat in the Twenty20 international which preceded it.

However, Robin Brown, Kenya’s coach, does not believe the decline is terminal. “In 2003 we got to the semi-finals so why can’t we do it again?,” he said. “It is going to take time and it doesn’t just happen like that. How many teams have reached a semi-final of the World Cup?

“We have quite a good development programme in place. There is room for improvement but I think it is working.

“Just give us another couple of years and I can’t see us being where we are at the moment.”

Brown said the current crop are paying for the fact the stars of 2003 all vacated the scene at the same time.

“I think what has happened in the past – although it is not for me to criticise – is we rested on our laurels,” Brown said.

“Most Associates [teams], when they get to that stage, rest on their laurels a little, but you can’t keep picking the same team.

“A lot of the side who reached the 2003 semi-finals came to the end at much the same time and we had to rebuild. Now we have a young side who are still a little inexperienced.”

pradley@thenational.ae