On Saturday, Harambee Stars’ much-touted 11-match unbeaten run came to an end in Sierra Leone when they lost to the hosts in AFCON qualifiers.
That must have been very traumatising considering that they were playing in their new strip, which they did not don for free, but which came with millions of shillings thanks to well-negotiated deal signed by the indefatigable Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa.
That was a setback for a team whose unbeaten run FKF officials have been screaming about as if they won the World Cup and which also wants to be in 2022 World Cup in Qatar and all Kenyans should give them a shoulder to cry on.
Even then, it would not hurt for FKF bosses to learn a lesson or two from a totally different sport, cricket and from another country, Bangladesh where football used to be the most popular sport.
For the past two weeks, eight of the best cricket teams in the world have been battling, okay, batting it out in Wales and England and the overall winner will emerge at the end of the week.
The International Cricket Council Champions Trophy is the name of the tournament, and by Saturday, two countries had reached the semifinals and two others had packed their pads and headed back home, to Australia and New Zealand.
The two countries that were the first to be bundled out of the tournament are not weak by any standards, given that Australia are five-time winners of the Cricket World Cup and New Zealand were finalists in the last World Cup.
Of the two semifinalists, England, who won all of their matches in the four-team Group A, cannot be considered strong as they have never won the Cricket World Cup nor the Champions Trophy which are played in the 50-over format. England have won the “younger” 20-over format, the T20 World Cup in 2010, and that is the only major international cricket silverware they have. Don’t laugh!
Based on the amount of noise the British press makes, you might think they have won every major trophy in cricket. Just like in football, England won the (Fifa) World Cup in 1966, and the noise has never died down. And yesterday, their junior team won the Under-20 Fifa World Cup, and you can bet the amount of noise we will be subjected to. But I digress.
The other semifinalist in Group A are Bangladesh, which every Kenyan cricketer or cricket fan will tell you are not just underdogs, but puppies that have rightfully earned their place in the big boys’ kennel.
In this tournament, Bangladesh lost to England, but edged out New Zealand after their match and Australia was abandoned due to rain and they ended up with a point each.
It can be called luck, but Bangladesh earned their place in the eight-team tournament because the other big boy of cricket, West Indies (two-time winners of Cricket World Cup and 2004 winners of Champions Trophy) did not make the cut after finishing ninth in the ICC One Day International Championship rankings as at September 30, 2015. Bangladesh were ranked higher.
When Kenyans see Bangladesh at the high table of cricket, they always wonder how it all happened. Less than 15 years ago, Kenya’s national cricket team used to beat Bangladesh at will. Bangladesh were the whipping boys of international cricket and in ODIs, they hold the record for the most consecutive losses, 23, which they suffered between 2001 and 2004.
Bangladesh was so weak and Kenyan fans used to wonder why their extremely good side even had an ODI status as the hapless Bangladesh. They did not understand why it even had a Test-status.
Between 1997 and 2003, Kenya had beaten Bangladesh six times in seven encounters in Kenya, Bangladesh, India and South Africa! While Kenya started talking about being given the coveted Test–status, Bangladesh started looking for ways through which they could build on the little strength that they had, how they could make the most out of the few structures they had and how they could make crowds and corporate firms support them.
While in Nairobi, we had forgotten about cricket as it were and were so preoccupied with whining about the coveted Test-status because of the matches we had won here and there in Dhaka, things were totally different.
While Kenyans were busy planning for tomorrow, Bangladeshis were planning their future in which tomorrow will just fit in. And tomorrow did fit in and they have been killing giants so much so that nowadays the big boys of cricket have to plan when facing Bangladesh.
After every victory, the Tigers — as Bangladesh cricket team is nicknamed — do not go around shouting, but plan for their next match.
Unlike Harambee Stars, whose officials have been gloating over an 11- match unbeaten run, the Tigers know that you are just as good as your last match and do not rest on their laurels -- and neither do they scream at critics.
The writer is an editor with the Weekend editions of The Standard.