Last bowl for Belle?

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Sep 01, 2017
  • Selection of the national team comes under scrutiny as the team leaves for qualifier. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Qionter Aoko has climbed from the junior to senior ranks. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Mary Belle has been omitted by the national selectors from the national women cricket team that will take part in the ICC Africa Women Twenty20 qualifiers.

The exclusion puts the fast bowler's international cricket career in doubt. Belle was not named in a squad of 14 players for the qualifiers in Namibia released by Cricket Kenya on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old veteran pace bowler who made her international debut in 2001 last played an international match in May 2015 during the 2016 ICC Women's Twenty20 qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

After the tour, Belle who a sibling of coach Lameck Onyango and captain Margaret Banja was not selected to the team’s tour of United Arab Emirates in December last year.

Prior to being selected to the May 2015 squad to Zimbabwe, Belle had also been sidelined in the Kenyan team that played in the inaugural Kwibuka For Peace tournament in Rwanda.

She was once again excluded from the Kenya squad that successfully reclaimed the Kwibuka trophy in June this year.

The fast bowler returned to training with the national team which had camped for next week’s qualifiers.

Senior players unavailable for the tour

With her new ball partner Mercyline Adhiambo and other senior players unavailable for the tour and Kenya searching their first global qualification, it was expected Belle would return to the national team due to her long experience in international women's cricket.

But it seems the bowler is not in ‘his brother's’ plans. The selectors surprised cricket pundits when they included former U19 team batter Jane Achieng and youngster Flavian Atieno.

The news of Achieng and Atieno’s inclusion into the team may not have been surprising because Achieng was in the second team that played in the just concluded series that involved hosts Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania while Atieno performed dismally in the first team.

While Achieng’s inclusion has once again raised a red flag towards the standard of women cricket in the country, her path to the national team appears to have been easy.  

Atieno’s selection has led to another puzzle on what criteria was used by the selectors.

“We have been caught unawares by the selection of some players in the team. Achieng has been out of action for a long time and she just comes and makes into the team with nothing to write about her. Atieno had a poor show in the just concluded series and to our shock she is in the team,” said a former member of the team who sought anonymity.

Achieng last turned out for the team in 2014 during the Women's World Cup Qualifiers in South Africa before leaving the country for Middle East.

Back in the team

On her return few months later, she linked up with the team and three months later she is back in the team.

While the selectors and the coaches were burning the midnight oil on who will be selected between Flavian Atieno and Belle, Achieng’s name had already been penned in the list.

By Tuesday afternoon, sources within the selection panel confirmed to Sports News Arena that the selectors were grappling with the selection of the two players.

Atieno who hails from Nakuru and was a member of the team that reclaimed the annual Kwibuka tournament finally won the selectors confidence for the qualifiers.

Coach Onyango declined to talk about the selection of the team, instead he was confident that his side has put the performance of last qualifiers in Zimbabwe where they finished third behind them.

“The last qualifiers was disappointing yes, but we learned a lot about ourselves as a team and also about what still needs to be done in order for us to reach the level that we wish to be at by the time we reach the World Cup.”

Speaking about the strength of the teams he will face in the qualifiers (Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Namibia), he declared: “All the teams are going to come with one goal, qualifying for the World Cup, but I know that we have the team to compete successfully against them. We have a team of great talent and potential and for us to become successful against them, we will have to play our hearts out as well as do all the basics right.”

Banja is looking forward to the tour

Captain Margaret Banja is looking forward to the tour and hopes that senior players including Sarah Bhakita, Sylvia Kenya, Quentoor Aoko and Mary Wambui and herself with over six years’ experience can impart their knowledge to the rest.

“It’s safe to say that this is going to be a massive tournament for us and we’re all ready to face this challenge head on,” she said. “I’m looking for a strong performance from the team every time we walk on to the park and for the team to just give it their all. If, at the end of the series, each and every player can say that they left it all out there, that’s about all I can ask for.”

Dropped from the team which did duty in Rwanda in June is Mako Wako. Sharon Juma’s unavailability for the two has easily earned Ruth Ochando another chance to do the duty for the team behind the stumps.

With seamers Belle and Adhiambo out of the team, Kenya will have to rely on Vanessa Adhiambo, Esther Wangari and teenager Alice Muoki with the new ball.

In the spin department, Sarah Bhakita and Edith Waithaka will lead the attack.

Squad: Margaret Banja (captain), Sarah Bhakita, Sylvia Kinyua, Quinteer Aoko, Mary Wambui, Vanessa Adhiambo, Faith Mwende, Edith Waithaka, Ruth Achando, Esther Wangare, Alice Muoki, Veronica Abuga, , Flavian Atieno, Jane Achieng.