Before Kenya left for their match against Namibia, Kenyan Captain Steve Tikolo spoke to Nick Deverell of CricketEurope.
Nick Deverell: Steve Tikolo, Thank you for taking the time to talk. How have the preparations gone for the Intercontinental Cup matches?
Steve Tikolo: I'm very happy with the preparations. We had a good period before Christmas then two weeks off and have been back working hard since the 7th. The boys are working hard and the preparations are going well.
ND: How about your own form?
ST: I'm feeling good – I'm timing the ball well with the bat and the ball is coming out nicely when I bowl.
ND: I noticed you spending some extra time bowling at practice. Is there anything particular you were working on?
ST: (grinning) Yes – I was perfecting my wrong-un for the upcoming matches.
ND: You have bowled that before with some success. Does that mean that Namibia and the UAE will have to be extra watchful?
ST: (laughs) That's the idea. It is working well and I'm confident it will cause them some problems.
ND: Sharjah is known as being good to spinners. Will Kenya be going in with all 3 for these games?
ST: We are very aware of the its reputation yes, so we will probably play all three – especially if the early match is good for spinners.
ND: The three of you bowl fairly differently. Do you allocate particular roles before the game?
ST: It depends on the dynamics of the game and how each one bowls. Jimmy (Kamande) is a flatter bowler and normally used as a stock bowler to keep it tight and runs down. Hiren (Varaiya) and myself give it more air and will go for the wickets.
ND: Moving on to batting. You have an outstanding record in the Intercontinental Cup. You are already far and away the leading run scorer – what keeps you motivated?
ST: There is always the urge to do well for the team and for me to perform at my best for them. Everyday when I wake up I make it my goal to do better than yesterday.
ND: You mentioned doing your bit for the team. It is also something that comes out when talking to the youngsters coming through, is there a connection?
ST: I find it incredibly satisfying to see so many youngsters coming through well. It is one of the reasons I keep playing and stay motivated – to help them through. Alex Obanda's breakthrough especially has been very satisfying.
ND: Young players coming up and breaking into the team has been a feature of the last couple fo years. We had Mishra and Varaiya in 2006, Obanda in 2007, who are the ones to watch out for in '08?
ST: There are a number of players who spring to mind, some of whom the coaches have already had working with the team. Moses Otieno is a promising medium pacer. Peter Kituku could do well with the bat – in fact he made 50 odd in the first warm up game. Then there are three who are still at school at the moment: Nelson Odhiambo is a good medium pacer and Lameck (Onyango)'s brothers Shem and James Ngoche are promising spinners.
ND: You mentioned a moment ago that the youth was one of the things that kept you playing. How long will Steve Tikolo be around for?
ST: (Laughs) That is a tough one and one I am asked a lot. At the moment, I am feeling good and the body is good and fit. The minute I feel like I am a burden to the team, I will say goodbye.
ND: Hopefully that is still a long way off. When it does come, what are the plans?
ST: I would like to stay with cricket. Maybe a coaching or managing role. I really want to give something back to the game. I would like a big role – I have the respect of the players and could offer a lot.
ND: Are there any particular goals/ideas you would like to achieve/introduce?
ST: Two main things. I would like to see the (Kenyan) game go fully professional and to improve the facilities. To improve, players need to play all day and if they do that, they can't earn, so need to be looked after. At the moment it is a semi-professional situation. Some of us are lucky enough to be contracted, but what about the others in the squad who enable the team to train properly? The rest of the players need to be looked after too.
ND: With that in mind, you must be looking forward to the Zonal League?
ST: The Zonal League is definitely a good idea at the right time.
To be continued.
Note that this interview was conducted on Wednesday before the team left the country and hence before the latest flare up of clashes in Kenya. The trouble in the country was an issue discussed, but as it does not pertain to cricket, it was omitted from this write up.