Having worked recently with South African legend, Jonty Rhodes, and displaying some strong performances in pre-tournament matches so far, Kenya are a team determined not to be written off as just another minnow. They will be hoping to repeat their 2003 jaunt to the semi-finals, but they will have a tough path to do so. To get through the group stage and reach the quarter finals, they’ll have to get past giants like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the reigning champs, Australia. Their first match is against New Zealand on the 20th and if they can sneak a win there, they’ll be flying high.
Kenya’s batting line up is not one to be dismissed lightly. The experienced all-rounder, Thomas Odoyo, returns for his fifth world cup alongside 39 year old Steve Tikolo. Tikolo may be nearing forty but he is showing no signs of slowing down just yet. He got 126 not out of 126 balls in a warm up match against Afghanistan and the Kenyan team will be more than a little pleased that he is still in form.
Much of the batting side, however, are new to a tournament of the calibre of a world cup. Preparation was disrupted for opener Seren Waters as Durham University demanded his return to study for at least a week. Yet Waters, despite not impressing in the first two warm-ups, showed he is not afraid of the big boys as he helped himself to a solid 43 against the West Indies. And Minnows they may be, but Captain Jimmy Kamande will be quite content with the quality of batters such as his number 3, Collins Obuya and Waters’ fellow opener, David Obuya. Add to this a middle order lead by Steve Tikolo and including the captain himself and some flat, batting friendly pitches and we might just see a surprise or two.
If batting is Kenya’s strong point, its weakness is definitely the bowling. This is not to say they don’t have some decent players in the side. Peter Ongondo, who will head up the attack, has been seen to have a good economy rate against even the strongest opposition and Thomas Odoyo has plenty of experience and certainly knows how to trouble opposition batsmen. Spin, however, is bound to be called upon a fair amount on the flat subcontinental pitches and this is where the cracks may start to appear. Collins Obuya, the 2003 world cup hero, will be the man to watch but if he fails to impress Kamande will have to turn to his lesser spin options.
Despite a disappointing visit to India recently, Kenya will be geared up for the group stages of the cup with a couple of warm up wins to their name. They lost a match to the West Indies, but can hold their heads high after pulling back a decent 192 against the Caribbean team. There’s a chance Kenya might sneak into the quarter finals, but if they do I suspect this will be the furthest they go. They’re very capable of knocking over Canada and Zimbabwe, so I would say that their worst case scenario is landing fifth in group A.
Kenya is a minnow, there’s no questioning that, and they definitely have a tough road ahead. But they have some strong and experienced men in the batting line up, so if their quicks have an effect and their spin doesn’t implode you just never know what might happen. Kenya surprised the world in 2003; they might just do it again.
Preview by Kirby Meehan