The much-awaited ICC men’s T20 World Cup qualifier bowls off today in the United Arab Emirates with Kenya starting off as underdogs against the Netherlands.
The former Associate heavyweights are ranked 29th in the T-20 cadre and face stiff challenge to qualify for the T20 World Cup in Australia. Kenya, who have had a poor run in the event, losing all their warm-up matches to Nigeria, Jersey and Canada open their campaign against favourites Netherlands.
The warm-up results in addition to poor training back home have left Shem Ngoche’s side with a huge task of bagging one of the six tickets on offer. Ngoche is aware of the tournament’s value and hopes his team will live up to expectations.
“It is going to be a really good tournament. As we all know, there are some very good teams here and for us, it will be a very important tournament considering the country’s current standards. If we get a chance to qualify, it will be the starting point of a new phase for Kenyan cricket,” he noted. The team is balanced on paper with a blend of experienced players like skipper Rakep Patel and Collins Obuya combining with youthful stars like Dhiren Gondaria, Sachin Bhudia and Pushpak Kerai. Other experienced players in the squad are opening batsmen Alex Obanda and Irfan Karim.
Kenya finished second in the T20 World Cup Africa regional finals on level points with Namibia but with an inferior run rate. They participated in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 but suffered heavy defeats at the hands of New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their two games.
At only 23, Gondaria already boasts impressive T20 stats. His average of 29.08 paired with a strike rate of 136 readily explains his opening spot in the team. The highlight of his career to-date was a sparkling 78 off 47 balls during last year’s Africa T20 Cup against rivals Namibia.
Twelve other teams are participating in the qualifying tournament. Scotland, The Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Kenya and Bermuda form Group ‘A’ while Group ‘B’ has hosts UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria.
The six qualifiers join Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the first round of the World Cup to be played in two groups with the top two in each group joining Australia, Pakistan, India, New Zealand, England, South Africa, West Indies and Afghanistan in the Super 12 stage.
October 18: Kenya v Netherlands, ICC Academy, Dubai
October 19: Kenya v Scotland, ICC Global Cricket Academy
October 21: Kenya v Bermuda, ICC Academy
October 23: Kenya v Singapore, ICC Global Cricket Academy
October 25: Kenya v Namibia, Dubai International Stadium
October 27: Kenya v Papua New Guinea, Dubai International Stadium