Stray Lions and women's teams end drought for silverware

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Dec 31, 2016
  • The women's national team defied all odds to win two trophies. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Stray Lions' Yusuf Pathan inspired the team to the league title. (SNA. File Photo)

  • The win in the UAE with a new-look team was a cause for celebration and a pointer to the future. (Photo courtesy)

The women's national team and Stray Lions cricket teams ended their long drought for a silverware with accolades as the 2016 witnessed a lot of cricket both locally and internationally.

The year also saw Kenya host their first international cricket in four years when Cricket Kenya hosted Hong Kong in the ICC World Cricket League Championship match in Nairobi.

As the women's team ended their long drought for an international title by lifting the UAE International Women Twenty20 tournament in December, Stray Lions ended a long wait for a league title by finally winning the NPCA Super League.

The women's team which had missed out in the 2018 Women World Cup ticket by losing out in the qualifiers in Zimbabwe in April beat their bitter rivals Uganda to the finals of the inaugural event in the Middle East.

By winning the event where they beat the hosts by six wickets, the squad which consisted a number of new blood shocked many as few had given them a chance to even beat their neighbors Uganda.

“Few gave us any chance of doing well considering the events surrounding the preparation of the team to the team selection. But despite that we believed in ourselves and worked hard. As much we knew nothing about our opponents apart from Uganda, we were so much confident of a good show,” skipper Daisy Wairimu said.

Stray Lions’ long wait for a silverware also ended when they beat Swamibapa with a match to play in the NPCA Super League to be crowned the winners for the first time since its inception 13 years ago.

From the first ball of the season Stray Lions were serious for the title-signing up big names among them Shem Obado, Tanmay Mishra and Collins Obuya just to boost their chances.

Apart from signing locally, they also went internationally by acquiring the services of three players from India with top of the bill being Indian international all-rounder Yusuf Pathan.

Pathan was key in Stray Lions' title win

Despite playing only two matches, Pathan was key in Stray Lions' title win as his mentally contribution in their wins over immediate defending champions Kanbis and Swamibapa is what the team needed then to boost their chances of clinching the title.

In his maiden appearance against Kanbis at Eastleigh High School, fans turned out in numbers to watch him in action. The same was witnessed a week later when he was in action against Swamibapa at Peponi School.

“Despite not contributing with the bat as we expected in the two matches, Pathan’s presence was key as he was able to pull crowds. He was also instrumental in our success because he helped us mentally as the league came to an end. It reached a point where the league was shaping up and we could have lost it but his mental assistance was key to our victory,” Stray Lions secretary Thota Srinivas told Sports News Arena.

Stray Lions' win ended Kanbis' long reign in the league. Swamibapa who finished third despite staying on top for half of the season, lost a chance of winning two titles when they lost to Sikh Union in the final of Harilal Shah Memorial tournament.

Swamibapa had won the Twenty20 title after beating Stray Lions in the finals. Kanbis won the 40 Overs Knockout title.

However it was not a good season for the national men’s team as they blew away their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup when they failed to put on a good show in their WCLC fixtures.

ICC brought good news

With ICC having brought good news to Kenyan cricket by granting Kenya the hosting rights for an ICC event since 2012, local fans who had been starved of international cricket for four years expected Kenya to do well against Hong Kong.

With the rains that had pounded Nairobi for weeks having spared the opening day, Kenya won. But the second match which was affected by the rains forcing four stoppages saw Kenya fall to the visitors to put their world cup qualifications in high doubts.

The stakes were after the team had lost their first matches of the year to hosts Papua New Guinea in May. With the two losses to PNG and one to Hong Kong, Kenya have a huge task of qualifying for their sixth World Cup appearance.

Kenya also hosted Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Uganda in a series of 50 overs and Twenty20 matches where Kenya won the longer version with win over Saudi Arabia in the finals.

In the T20 Kenya lost to both Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the preliminary rounds thus missing out in the finals where Saudi Arabia beat Qatar to win. Apart from the losses of the national team, Kenya was also on the losing side when the Kenya A side lost all their matches in November in Uganda.

Cricket Kenya selectors put up a side to take part in the invitational event that consisted hosts Uganda and Zimbabwean side Takashinga. After the one week event, Kenya had put on one of the worst performance in Uganda.

On the return after losing six matches heavily the technical bench led by former national team captain Jimmy Kamande said the event was meant to help the young players ahead of U19 World Cup qualifiers set to be held early 2016.

Tikolo and Otieno snapped by Uganda

Despite a losing show on the pitch, Kenya were on the loss of manpower after Steve Tikolo and Francis Otieno were snapped by Uganda.

After beginning the year on the drop of Tikolo and Martin Suji’s stepping down after players revolt in 2015, CK sacked the two in April.

Uganda didn’t waste time and within weeks of their sacking Uganda had signed up Tikolo as their national team head coach. Five months later, Uganda poached another Kenyan when they picked Otieno from CK development program to take over as the women’s team coach.

Otieno had just worked with CK for only three months. Weeks after Suji and Tikolo had been sent packing by CK, the national team trainer Joseph Asichi was also given marching orders.

But after weeks of training the players changed their mind on Asichi and asked CK to revert their decision on him and was brought back into the team.

For the second year in a row, Mombasa was busy with cricket with at least two tournaments being held in 2016. The tournaments managed to attract players from Nairobi who ended up improving its profile.

The same cannot be said of another CK affiliate Nakuru. Nakuru held only one event which ended in anticlimax with numerous reports of match abandonments, postponements, indiscipline cases and poor officiates.