The Cricket Kenya Normalization Committee – appointed Selection Committee narrowed down the squad that completed the residential camp in Nairobi to 18 players who travelled to Uganda on 2nd September to take part in a three – match One Day series against Uganda and an 8 – match T20I tri – series with Nigeria and the hosts thereafter.
Following the wrangles within the cricket circles over the Cricket Kenya Board coupled with the Covid – 19 pandemic, there hasn’t been much cricket played by Kenya over the last couple of years, both locally and internationally.
However, that did not deter the selectors from picking the best performers in the ongoing 2021 Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) 50 – over League which enters its ninth week this weekend while relying on experience to beef up some quarters.
The squad has six pace bowlers including Elijah Asoyo, Nehemiah Ngoche, Emmanuel Ringera, Lucas Ndandason, Eugene Odhiambo and Peter Langat, perhaps to ease the load by the time the T20s come around.
Asoyo and Odhiambo make a return to the squad after being axed from the side that toured Oman for the Cricket World Cup Challenge League Group B.
Asoyo last played in the Dubai Qualifier earlier that year in October while Odhiambo returns to the venue where he last played for the senior side in the May 2019 ICC Men’s T20 Africa Final.
While both haven’t quite found good form with the ball lately, Odhiambo is proving to be handy with the bat for his team, being amongst the top run getters in the last three matches.
While the Swamibapa pair of Ngoche and Koech also struggle to find purchase with the ball, Ringera and Ndandason lead the pacemen with 13 wickets alike so far. The two are favourites to start, combining Ndandason’s left arm.
Peter Koech who comes back to the squad after being part of the Senior Men’s team that took part in the last ICC World Cricket League Championship against Netherlands and Scotland in 2017 and is likely to take a back seat upfront.
Asoyo and Ngoche being fit to start the entire duration of the tour would help lend in their experience with Ngoche having shown flashes of brilliance with the bat as well lately.
The squad only has two spinners – skipper Shem Ngoche and debutant Vraj Patel – both left arm orthodox spinners. The skipper has been on fine form, leading the bowling log in the local League with 23 wickets from 8 innings and being handy with the bat after opening the season with a ton.
The skipper surely gets a nod ahead of debutant Vraj Patel who turned out for Kenya U – 19 in 2019.
Like the speedsters, the team is not short of top – middle order batters in the form of seasoned campaigners Rushabh Patel, Irfan Karim, Alex Obanda and Gurdeep Singh while debutants Steve Odhiambo and Brian Likavu also seek their maiden caps.
Irfan Karim comes off the League with a healthy 52.83 run average and will take the gloves ahead of youngster Brian Likavu who takes a break from his high school homework to etch his name into Kenyan Cricket’s history books.
Alex Obanda, who does not need an introduction to the Ugandans had just begun to get going going in the NPCA League with a blistering match winning half century last weekend, barely a month after winning player of the tournament accolades in the NCBA T20 Cup tournament down at the Coast.
Rushab Patel and Gurdeep Singh make up the third left hand equation at the top alongside Karim and if both play, Kenya has a better chance of cushioning the middle order. Both are skippers for their respective Clubs this season, adding them a sense of responsibility to bat long and deep, Singh being their flashier one of the two once he gets going.
All the top order batsmen have had huge fifties but no century on the board and they will be itching to capitalize one after the other.
Surprise inclusion Steve Odhiambo has nothing going for him so far in the current season with a high score of 22 from four innings and will just be glad to rub off on the glory of being in the company of the best the nation has to offer at the moment.
Zahid Abbas finally gets an opportunity to make it to the senior men’s side after years of languishing on the side-lines with great performances with bat, ball and the gloves as well. He would be keen to slot into the middle with Nelson Odhiambo who has rooted himself there for over a decade. Dominic Wesonga, handy with both bat and ball would be longing for a chance to grind out the middle overs in the longer format after eight years of stints with the ‘A’ side and Club Cricket failed to reopen a second phase with the national side for him. Debutant Tanzeel Sheikh has impressed as a finisher for Ngara Sports Club and would definitely come in handy in the middle with quick runs if required.
With the absence of regulars Collins Obuya, Rakep Patel, Dhiren Gondaria, Sachin Bhudia and Pushpak Kerai, Kenya has to look for alternative combinations to see the team home and for a side that gathered for less than a week, it will be a welcome challenge, not for lack of skill in the side.