World Cup 2003 - Rise of Kenya
The 2003 Cricket World Cup will be remembered for the antics of one team – Kenya. The World Cup was hosted by the African teams South Africa, Zimbabwe & Kenya. Everyone expected the South Africans to go the farthest or maybe even win it. But it was not to be as they were eliminated in the first round. It was the Kenyans who surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals.
In a group comprising of South Africa, New Zealand West Indies, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Canada, and Bangladesh, it was almost taken for granted that the top test playing nations would proceed to the Super Six stage. Well, two of them did but, the third one was a non test playing nation, Kenya.
Kenya started the tournament on a losing note. They were defeated by South Africa in their first match. They bounced back and defeated Canada in their second match. Their third match against New Zealand was embroiled in a bit of controversy. The New Zealand team had refused to play their match in Kenya sighting security reasons. The ICC had denied their request of the match being shifted to South Africa or Zimbabwe.
As a result, the Kenyans were given a walkover due to forfeit by the New Zealand team. Their next match was probably one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when they defeated the 1996 champions, Sri Lanka. In their penultimate group match, they defeated Bangladesh, before being defeated by West Indies in their final group match. At the end of the group stage, they were placed second on the table with 16 points from their 6 matches. Kenya along with Sri Lanka & New Zealand qualified, with 10 points carried forward in the Super Six Stage.
(Points carried forward in the Super Six Stage were calculated as follows: 4 points for a win over another qualifier, 1 for a win over a non-qualifier, 2 for a tie or no result against another qualifier, 0.5 for a tie or no result against a non-qualifier)
In the Super Six Stage, they had to play against India, Zimbabwe, and Australia. They defeated Zimbabwe but lost to India & Australia. This one win was sufficient for them to qualify for the semi-finals. Even though New Zealand won the same number of matches both in the group stage and the Super Six stage, the Kenyans, due to their higher carried forward points, qualified for the semis. If New Zealand had played their match against Kenya in the first round, maybe things would have been different for them.
The semi-finals, saw the end of Kenya’s dream run when they lost to India.
This World Cup also saw some amazing performances by the Kenyan team:
• Collins Obuya’s 5/24 against Sri Lanka, was one of the top 10 bowling performance in an innings in the tournament.
• Kennedy Otieno’s 12 dismissals (8 catches, 4 stumpings) was the fourth best Wicket Keeping performance in the tournament behind Adam Gilchrist (21), Kumar’s Sangakkara (17) & Rahul Dravid (15).
• Kennedy Otieno’s 4 stumpings were the most by a Wicket Keeper in the tournament.
• Kennedy Otieno’s 4 dismissals each against Bangladesh & Zimbabwe was one of the best performance by a Wicket Keeper in an innings in the tournament.
• Maurice Odumbe (211 runs) had the 6th highest Strike Rate of the tournament – 103.43
• 28 catches taken by the Kenyan was the 3rd highest in total number of catches taken by a team in the tournament.
• Asif Karim’s bowling figure of 8.2-6-7-3 at an economy rate of 0.84 against Australia, was the most economical in an innings by a bowler in the tournament.
Unfortunately, the Kenyans never reached such heights again in the World Cup. They qualified for the 2007 and 2011 World Cups but could never emulate their success of the 2003 World Cup. In the next two World Cups, they could only win one match out of total 9 matches played.
In both the succeeding World Cups they bowed out in the first round. After playing 5 consecutive World Cups from 1999 to 2011, they failed to even qualify for the 2015 World Cup. The African team could not follow in the footsteps of their one-time fellow Associate Members like Ireland & Afghanistan, who have been conferred with Test Playing Nation Status.
Today, Kenyan Cricket is probably going through its darkest phase. They were relegated to Division Three of the World Cricket League after their winless performance in the recent World Cricket League Division Two tournament, held in Namibia. This relegation saw their Captain Rakep Patel & Coach Thomas Odoyo resign.
But one thing is for sure, whenever one talks about the 2003 World Cup, they cannot ignore Kenya from the discussions. Every team goes through ups & downs and period of transitions. It would not be surprising to see Kenya regain their lost place in the world of International Cricket.