Vol. 5 Num 638 Wed. March 15, 2006  

Kenyans hungry for exposure

World Cup semifinalists Kenya arrived in the capital Tuesday morning to play four one-day internationals against Bangladesh this month.

The battle of the two sides used to create much hype but it is not the case these days since Bangladesh's entry into the highest level of the game. And that is the reason there is hardly any ardour with the four-match series.

With Bangladesh enjoying international commitments on regular basis, the East Africans are still crying for recognition.

That is why Kenyan captain Steve Tikolo said that they are hungry for playing international cricket rather than being concerned about results.

"We are really hungry to play international cricket. We have had very little opportunities to play international games since our commendable performance in the last World Cup. We are hoping that our lack of exposure would be taken under consideration by the world cricket governing body," said Tikolo, a popular cricketer in the Bangladesh domestic circuit.

Coach Roger Harper, the former West Indies international and coach who took over the ICC associate members at the end of January, also echoed the same sentiment.

"Kenya do not get enough opportunity to play international cricket, so we are happy that we've got the chance to play a few games after four matches against Zimbabwe. We need more international exposure," explained Harper.

Despite having a good record against Bangladesh, Tikolo, who has played all seven ODIs against Bangladesh with an enviable batting record including a century in Dhaka in 1999, branded his side as underdogs in the coming series."No doubt Bangladesh are favourites. This is my second home as I have been playing domestic cricket here for the last few years. It is a privilege to see almost all the Bangladeshi players and it gives me an impression that Bangladesh are a improving lot," the 34-year-old said.

"Yes, I know the players and very much familiar with the condition but mind it, domestic and international cricket is not the same thing. You have to play tough in international cricket. We have a very good record against Bangladesh but I must say it is totally a new series," he added.

Tikolo, the highest scorer with 800-plus runs in the recently concluded Premier Cricket League, agreed that they will feel the absence of ex-Kenya captain Maurice Odumbe, banned from international cricket for match-fixing.

"Definitely he was one of our key players and we are also missing Ravindu Shah for knee injury. But young guys are very much focusing on the series and are hungry to show their best. There are some new players who have the talent to put pressure on the opponents," said a confident Tikolo, a genuine match winner.

"We should have won 3-1 in Zimbabwe but cricket is such a game where one ball can change the whole scenario of the match," said Tikolo, who was unsatisfied with the 2-2 draw in Zimbabwe. His scores were 23, 98, 9 and two.

Although the soft-spoken Tikolo did not want to make much of his involvement in Bangladesh cricket, coach Harper believed that it would make a huge impact in the series.

"Our captain knows the condition and the players and I believe it will help us. You will recognise some young faces. Which impressed me most is the enthusiasm among the cricketers about the tour. We came here to play good and competitive cricket," said the tall off-spinner and a spectacular fielder in his days, who had earlier visited the country twice.

Kenya will leave Dhaka this morning for Bogra while the Bangladesh team left yesterday to play the first game on March 17 at the Shaheed Chandu Stadium.

Steve Tikolo (Captain), Thomas Odoyo, Martin Suji, Kennedy Otieno, Otieno Suji, Peter Jimmy, Hitesh Modi, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Alfred Luseno, Morris Ouma, Kalpesh Patel, James Kabatha and Tanmay Mishra.

NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN: The Kenyan national team, who arrived in Dhaka yesterday after nearly seven years to play four one-day internationals against the Tigers, is seen checking in at Sonargaon Hotel in the morning. PHOTO: STAR