The Kenyan team has over the years caused some famous upsets on cricket's biggest stage. They even reached the final four in 2003. Their performance since then however hasn’t had much to write home about. With Jonty Rhodes helping the team prepare for the 2011 WC, captain Jimmy Kamande feels that Kenya is keen to perform this time around. Excerpts from an interview with Yahoo! Cricket:
Kenya visited India recently to play a series against Gujarat and Baroda designed to provide a warm-up to the CWC - but was outplayed in all five matches. How is the side planning to overturn the poor run of form?
That trip was meant to give every player a chance. We carried a squad of 20 players to India. We did not always play our best 11 players. We tried to give everybody a fair chance. The focus was to choose our best 15. I am sure now we are more prepared and the pressure is also off since the selection is done. I am comfortable that everybody is ready and we will now try to get our best XI on the park.
Jonty Rhodes has been working with the Kenyan side in the lead-up to the WC. Has his presence helped?
Jonty Rhodes is not just looking at our fielding, but is also helping with the batting. He is also working on the mental preparation with every player. The guys are comfortable working with him. We are enjoying every moment of his time with us. I hope his impact can be seen during the World Cup.
The national side has recently bagged a one-year sponsorship deal with Karuturi Global. Does having a dedicated sponsor help the team focus on its performance without having to worry about how to make ends meet?
Since the present set-up has been in charge we have had some good news coming our way. The sponsorship is important because it makes everybody's life easier and comfortable. It will help not just the senior team, but all the others like the development staff, management and the various programmes.
The Kenyan side has seniors like Tikolo and Odoyo, who've been around for many years, but it also includes eight players who are yet to make their ODI debut. Do you think that the lack of experience will hurt?
We have a good combination of youth and experience. It is not a worry that enough guys have not played against Test teams. We have a few who have played around 20-30 ODIs. We have not played a Test team for a year or two. But the senior guys in the team like Steve and Thomas have. The juniors will follow their advice and try to get better.
Kenya has had some good WC results in the past. The team beat West Indies in their inaugural WC in 1996 and then in 2003 managed to make the semi-finals after victories over Canada, NZ, SL, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The side wasn't really able to build on that performance from then on - what do you think worked against the team?
That was a different era. The team that played the 2003 semifinals had played together for 10 years. It is true we did not build on it. But now we are here with a new team. It is a new combination that we are trying to form for Kenya not just for this World Cup, but for five to six years thereafter. Cricket is about the World up, it is the main event. But after World Cup, we have a lot of cricket coming up. A good display at the World Cup will be a good advertisement back home. We will ensure that at the World Cup we will not be taken lightly and will go out and express ourselves.
How is following for cricket back in Kenya? Will the Kenyan public be rooting for the national side during the World Cup?
When it's the World Cup time, most of the people know about it. The media back home keeps following our progress. I am sure the people will be wishing us well there. If we do well, it will motivate everyone back home. The guys will also be keyed up to perform knowing well that the people back home will be following us. In 2003 when we did well, cricket became very popular in most parts of Kenya. If we perform well, there will be hype again around the sport.