Kenya will be in town next week hoping to repeat the spectacular performance that took them all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup, reports Alvin Sallay Eight months after shocking the world by entering the semi-finals of the World Cup, Kenya find themselves ignored and forgotten by the rest of the cricketing fraternity, including the nabobs in the International Cricket Council - much to the disgust of their captain fantastic, Steve Tikolo. Thanks heavens, then, for tiny Hong Kong, who have seized the moment and invited Kenya to play in next weekend's Cathay Pacific/Standard Chartered Hong Kong Sixes. The rare opportunity to appear on the international stage, albeit at the Sixes, will be made full use of, promised Tikolo. 'We are coming to Hong Kong to show everyone what we are capable of. We are coming to play seriously. I hear that the prize money for winning the tournament is US$80,000. We need no incentive. Our main reason will be to put up a good show and try and get as far as possible,' said Tikolo. Kenyan cricket, a throwback to the days when players used to thoroughly enjoy the game and played with a simple passion to entertain, will be seen at the Kowloon Cricket Club on Saturday and Sunday. It is the first international outing for Tikolo and his team - all of whom played at the World Cup - since they last appeared in Sharjah soon after their wondrous odyssey to the semi-finals. 'It has been seven months since we played any international cricket. We thought our lives would change after the World Cup. But that has not been the case. We have not been playing any cricket at all since we played in Sharjah. It has been very frustrating,' says Tikolo. You can almost see the grimace, long distance from Nairobi. 'The ICC says the calendar is full until 2010 and they can't fit us in. On the one hand they want to fast-track Kenya. But they give us very few opportunities. We have ODI [one-day international] status but we have played only five games in Asia since the World Cup. This is not good for our development,' Tikolo said. Kenya, who first stole the limelight when they defeated the West Indies at the 1996 World Cup, upstaged that performance when they entered the semi-finals at this year's tournament, claiming the scalps of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on the way. The dream run was ended by Sourav Ganguly and his Indians. But by then they had captured the imagination of the world. Cameroon trod the same path at the 1990 soccer World Cup and were tagged as the 'Indomitable Lions'. By the same measure, Kenya, too, deserve to be labelled 'Lions'. 'Our progress made people sit up and take notice back home. A lot of people started to watch cricket. Our World Cup performance put us on the map,' says Tikolo. But the glow has since dimmed. In Kenya, cricket is back to being a second-class sport again. This is partly because of internal squabbling and politics within the cricketing establishment at home. At the heart of the problem has been an internal feud between the Kenya Cricket Association and the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association for control of Kenyan cricket. This has apparently forestalled the setting up of a domestic league - a must if Kenya are to be elevated to Test status in the future. At the moment there is no first-class structure within Kenya for the longer version of the game. The ICC, who awarded Kenya #300,000 soon after the World Cup, has also committed US$1 million to the setting up of a domestic structure in the next two years. This sudden influx of largesse has apparently resulted in the internal bickering: Everyone wants to steer the ship. 'At the moment the only cricket we play in Kenya is one-day cricket. The association is trying to introduce longer versions of the game and also put in place a structure. 'We need to have this structure in place if we are to get Test status. The ICC has said they will review our case in 2005. But at the same time, how do you review our position if we don't get any cricket for seven months at a stretch?' asked Tikolo. Tikolo has many regrets on a personal level. The main gripe of the talented batsman - he is the highest run-getter for Kenya on the ODI scene having scored 1,708 runs, including one century and 14 half-centuries at an average of 28.94 - is that he never got the chance to play outside Kenya, especially on the English county scene. 'I played only one season outside Kenya. That was for Border in South Africa during the 1995-96 season. Apart from that I have never ever played regularly abroad. 'That has been my biggest regret, not having got the opportunity,' says Tikolo. 'I have spread the word around. Probably a Kenyan name does not sell.' At 32, Tikolo says he has another 'four to five years' of good cricket left in him. 'Injuries notwithstanding, I feel I can play on until the next World Cup. I feel strong at the moment.' That is good news for Hong Kong fans. Kenya are making their debut at the Sixes and will be the team to watch out for. While defending champions Pakistan will once again be the team to beat, opponents must discount Kenya at their peril, as the World Cup proved. Tikolo leads a strong side comprising fellow-master batsman Maurice Odumbe, Ravindu Shah, Collins Otieno Obuya, Thomas Odoyo, Martin Suji and Kennedy Otieno Obuya. If they don't get side-tracked by the bright lights of Hong Kong, one can be sure that Kenya will be battling it out at the end. For in Odumbe they have a batsman who can tear apart any attack. The former captain is a savage hitter of the ball and like Tikolo, has scored more than a thousand ODI runs. Odumbe can also chip in with spin. But if it is spin they need, Kenya need look no further than leg-spinner Collin Obuya, who was the find of the World Cup. In Kennedy Otieno, they have an opening batsman of quality, and likewise, Suji, in the bowling department. The Kenyan fielding is reminiscent of the Clive Lloyd-led West Indians of the 1970s and 1980s, of a languorous and feline quality. 'The whole team is world-class,' advises Tikolo, with no trace of humility. No need to be humble for they have rubbed shoulders with the best and showed them they are worthy peers. Colin Croft, the former West Indies fast bowler, recently remarked about Kenya: 'They play as if every game is their next shot at greatness, and perhaps their last. What a refreshing cricket team.' If opportunity knocks only once in seven months, no wonder then that Tikolo and company approach cricket in this enthusiastic manner. Kenya are certainly a throwback to the days when cricketers used to applaud opponents on the field. They play with a smile on their faces. Hong Kong can sit back and enjoy the radiance out of Africa.