The ups and downs of Kenyan cricket continue. After their amazing – if somewhat lucky – appearance in the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup earlier this year, Kenya has failed to qualify for the Under-19 world championships to be held in Bangladesh next February.
The only one of the eleven full One-Day International countries needing to go through the qualifying rounds for the Youth World Cup (by virtue of not having Test status), Kenya had merely to finish in the top two of the combined Africa-East Asia Pacific tournament which concluded in Windhoek, Namibia, last week.
They got rolled in the semis, by neighbours Uganda.
The result has to be a blow for the Kenyan Cricket Association, who have been making a serious push for Test status and ICC full membership after their strong showing in the World Cup, which included victories over Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Their record at Under-19 level has been somewhat shaky, however, with an infamous annihilation at the hands of Australia in the 2002 youth World Cup in New Zealand on their record (Australia scored 480 for 6; Kenya, in reply, were all out for 50).
There was also controversy surrounding the ethnic mix of the squad chosen for the Namibian qualifying tournament this month. Only one black player, wicketkeeper-batsman Timothy Muange, was chosen in the squad of fourteen.
Uganda beat Kenya by six wickets in the semi-final at Windhoek on October 8 to qualify for their first Under-19 World Cup, but went on to lose to lose to Papua New Guinea by 53 runs in the tournament final.
Uganda has been one of my “Watch This Space” teams in international cricket after their strong showing in the 2001 ICC Trophy, with a number of exciting performances in their debut appearance that year. There will be a heavy irony in the fact that they have leap-frogged their more illustrious neighbours to compete in next year’s youth showpiece, and one can only hope that Ugandan cricket can kick on from there.
My personal view is that, regardless of Kenya and Uganda’s status in the one-day international world, they should submit a combined bid, along with Tanzania, for Test status under the “East Africa” banner. This would provide a similar multi-nation concept as that applied with the West Indies, and East Africa did indeed field a combined team in the inaugural men’s World Cup in 1975.
Significant constitutional change would be required within the ICC for this to happen, not to mention shifting a few mindsets in the cricketing establishment, but a team comprising the best talent from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania would have a much greater (and sooner) chance of being competitive in the first-class and Test arena than that of Kenya going alone.