Money spins cricket as camels eat rules
ENGLAND versus the United Arab Emirates, Australia against Holland and the West Indies taking on Kenya in the 1996 World Cup.
That is a likely scenario as the fifth ICC Trophy competition draws to an end in Nairobi next weekend.
After two weeks of intense competition, cricket's jigsaw puzzle of 20 lesser-ranked nations and territories fighting to win one of three berths for the next World Cup is almost complete.
The UAE, Holland and hosts Kenya are clear favourites at this latter stage to clinch the coveted places.
With the stakes so high, it has come as no surprise that some countries have bent the rules regarding the qualification of players.
The most talked about ''eligibility'' fiasco has been fuelled by the new associate members, the oil-rich UAE, who have blatantly thrown the rule book to the camels.
This collection of desert states, including Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, have signed several first-class cricketers from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka to make up a team that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the opposition.
Just as window dressing, the ICC newcomers have an Arab as captain. Sultan Zarawani is as capable of cricket as an eskimo. Never mind. He does not worry as the burden is more than well taken care of by the Asian expatriates.
The hot gossip in the early days of the tournament was whether the ICC would take any action regarding the eligibility of the UAE players.
Rumours flew around about how seven of the players had the same date stamps on their passports - and the date being just inside the four-year residency qualification.
Some talk even suggested that all 15 players fell into the above category. The only player who was truly qualified to play, being of course the Sultan of swing.
So with bated breath, all the other teams waited to see what action the ICC would take.
Well, they might have died of asphyxiation, but the ICC have apparently swept the whole episode under the carpet at the tournament secretariat here in Nairobi.
More gossip. Apparently a high-powered desert sheik, someone interested in cricket, had donated a large sum of money to the organisers of this tournament as a gesture of goodwill.
Money, they say, talks. The ICC have, however, remained silent.
Money can also buy anything. The UAE cricketers, however, need not buy a Mercedes from the GBP10,000 everyone is receiving, as they will be getting the car free if their country qualifies.
If you have money to splurge, like the UAE have, why not do it and let the rest of the opposition slobber with envy.
One team which definitely does not have the money, but for whom the stakes are as high, are hosts Kenya.
They played in the first World Cup in 1975 by invitation, and as part of East Africa. But then the side mainly comprised of players of Asian extract.
Today, the indigenous African proudly leads the way in the Kenyan side. The man on the streets of Nairobi is gradually becoming aware that his ''brothers'' are playing.
More interest is being generated, especially by the likes of the Tikolo brothers. Tom, David and Steve have captured the imagination of not only the Kenyans but also of the international media.
The British and Australian press, news agency services and even the BBC have been singing the praises of the Tikolos, especially Steve.
If Kenya do make it to the next World Cup, Steve Tikolo will be there to proudly show the world the quality of players that can one day come out of Africa.
A survey on the number of players originating from the sub-continent amongst the 20 teams participating would show a large number.
Then take, for instance, countries like Canada and the USA, both of whom have a high incidence of players from the Caribbean.
Then territories like our own Hong Kong, Gibraltar and Singapore where the Englishman, Kiwi and Aussie abroad have made their home.
Perhaps the only teams which can strictly be called true national sides in the real sense of word, are maybe Malaysia and Bangladesh.
I suppose the desert sheiks in the UAE have the right idea after all. Buy your way to glory, instead of depending too much on home-grown players who won't be able to tell the difference between fine leg and silly mid-off.