Bat­tling for pit­tance

Kenyans prove what play­ing for the love of cricket is about

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

MEET Steve Tikolo. At 39, he is play­ing his fifth World Cup. He is Kenya’s great­est crick­eter. To­mor­row, he will lead Kenya into battle against Aust r a l i a a s h i s c o u n t r y ’ s high­est-paid player, earn­ing a mea­gre $ 250 a week.

As the min­nows pre­pare for a daunt­ing show­down with the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons at the Chin­naswamy Sta­dium, Tikolo re­vealed a num­ber of Kenyan World Cup play­ers are so poor they can­not pay bills and are strug­gling to feed their fam­i­lies.

While Aus­tralian skip­per Ricky Ponting and many of his team­mates are bona fide mil­lion­aires, Tikolo sup­ports his wife and three daugh­ters on a full-time Kenyan cricket con­tract worth $ 1000 a month.

Some of Kenya’s rookie play­ers are paid as lit­tle as $ 100 a week. The poorer mem­bers of the squad are so f i n a n c i a l l y i mpove r i s h e d they walk to in­ter­na­tional fix­tures in Kenya, un­able to af­ford a car or pub­lic trans­port. This is the team that gives per­spec­tive to the World Cup. While rag­ing favourites In­dia and Sri Lanka sweat on ev­ery re­sult, Tikolo and his Kenyan co­horts wage a far more im­por­tant battle.

‘‘ We’re ex­pected to com­pete against Aus­tralia but half the time our guys are think­ing where their next meal is com­ing from," says Tikolo, who is Kenya’s ver­sion of Ponting, hav­ing amassed a record 3411 runs in 133 matches.

‘‘ Some guys worry where they will get money to pay rent. With what we’re get­ting paid, you would be wor­ried how you would get by, and we’re sup­posed to be on the field wor­ry­ing about cricket.

‘‘ It’s a month-to-month scena r i o . T h e e c o n o m y a n d life­style is tough in Kenya. You can’t sur­vive on a $ 1000 a month, it’s peanuts re­ally, es­pe­cially if you’re a fam­ily man."

Tikolo says Kenya’s train­ing de­mands make it dif­fi­cult for play­ers to get sec­ond jobs to sup­ple­ment their cricket in­come. They train from 9am to 3pm, Mon­day to Fri­day.

‘‘ So ba­si­cally our day is gone," he says. ‘‘ Some of the younger guys are in­no­va­tive, they ask a rel­a­tive, say a brother, to run a busi­ness for them, they will buy old sports shoes and then sell them.

‘‘ It is very hard and it’s sad. Back home, you will find na­tional team play­ers walk­ing to o u r i n t e r n a t i o n a l ma t c h venue, it’s dif­fi­cult to af­ford pub­lic trans­port be­cause of the wage we earn. It’s been re­ally tough to say the least."

Un­der t he c a p t a i ncy o f T i k o l o , K e n y a we r e t h e Cin­derella story of the 2003 World Cup, fall­ing one win short of the de­cider af­ter los­ing to In­dia in the semi-fi­nals.

T h e I C C s u b s e q u e n t l y flagged the Africans as the next Test play­ing coun­try. It pumped six-fig­ure sums into Kenyan cricket. But Tikolo claims for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tors mis­ap­pro­pri­ated the funds and bit­ter in-fight­ing en­sued, crip­pling Kenyan cricket and send­ing it back to square one.

Kenya last faced Aus­tralia at the 2003 World Cup, los­ing by five wick­ets af­ter Brett Lee claimed a hat-trick. Tikolo, who will re­tire af­ter the World Cup, top scored for Kenya in that match with 51 and says he has noth­ing to fear to­mor­row.

‘‘ I have faced Brett Lee, so I’m not too bad," he said.

‘‘ For the younger guys it is a bit in­tim­i­dat­ing. The bulk of this team is young, so most of the guys have not played a team like Aus­tralia.

‘‘ This is def­i­nitely my last tour­na­ment . . . but I want to get back into the sys­tem as a bat­ting coach. What­ever po­si­tion is there for me I’d love to help the young boys com­ing through.

‘‘ Rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try is some­thing big. As a young boy grow­ing up in Kenya, my hero was Viv Richards ( West Indies great) but I could never dream of play­ing at the World Cup for my coun­try. It is some­thing I’ll al­ways cher­ish." FAST bowler Eli­jah Otieno in

ac­tion for Kenya

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.