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Minnows from Africa could bite

This is the year when the cricketing world turns its focus on the continent of Africa, at least for the months of February and March.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2003 00:50 IST
Michael Holding
Michael Holding

This is the year when the cricketing world turns its focus on the continent of Africa, at least for the months of February and March.

While most of the focus will be on South Africa and to a lesser extent on Zimbabwe, especially with the furore being created with the indecision regarding games in that country, two African Minnows will be looking to make some kind of mark in this tournament.

Kenya and Namibia join their bigger cricketing brothers with Kenya playing part hosts.

Neither of these teams has a serious chance of winning the tournament nor even getting to the "Super Six" stage, but they will be looking to create an upset or two or, at least, put up a performance to make the rest of the world take notice of their presence.

It was just two tournaments ago, the '95/96 tournament in Asia, that Kenya made the rest of the competitors stand up and take notice when they comprehensively beat the eventual quarter finalists West Indies in the preliminary rounds and although they can't have said to have made great strides since, there is enough talent and experience in their line-up for them not to be taken too lightly.

Names like Steve Tikolo their captain, Maurice Odumbe, the brothers Martin and Toni Suji and Kennedy Otieno are now very much names cricket followers around the world have become familiar with. Tikolo debuted in one day internationals for Kenya in '95/96 and has played first class cricket for Border and played also for Swansea in the Welsh leagues.

He can be a very exciting batsman who has a top score of 147 versus Bangladesh in the 1997 ICC Trophy but he has also scored 96 against Sri Lanka in 1996 and 93 versus Australia. So, he cannot be considered as only capable against the lesser teams.

He was also voted man-of-the-series in the tri-nation tournament between Kenya, Bangladesh and India. His skills don't stop with the wielding of his bat as he is also a competent right arm medium pace bowler with 28 wickets and a best of 3 for 22.Maurice Odumbe would probably be the next best known player in the Kenyan line-up. He also debuted in one-day internationals for Kenya in the '95/96 World Cup in Asia and was the captain for that tournament.

He is now the vice-captain and has played in all 25 of Kenya's official one-day internationals. He hasn't got a century against his name yet, but has a highest score of 83 versus India and probably his most notable performance is with the ball, where in that famous victory against the West Indies, he took 3 for 14 and took home the man-of-the-match award.

If Kenya can be considered a smaller brother of South Africa and Zimbabwe, then Namibia would have to be considered the babe of the family. None of their players have yet played an official one-day international but quite a few like their captain DB Kotze, JB Burger, JL Louw and B Murgatroyd have experience of domestic one-day games in the South African league and will be looking to enhance their reputations.

They will be looking forward to the experience of playing against the greater cricketing nations and even one eye-catching performance could go a long way in the promotion of the game in the eyes of their governments and countrymen, which surely has to be the ultimate goal of these lesser cricketing countries. (TCM)

First Published: Feb 07, 2003 00:47 IST