Kolkata: Inspirational Steve Tikolo, a key member of the Kenyan cricket`s glorious years in the late 1990s to early 2000s, led the side against Zimbabwe in his final international appearance in the concluding group A World Cup tie at Eden Gardens on Sunday.
With the regular skipper Jimmy Kamande spraining his right knee during yesterday`s training session, Tikolo, who had led the side into the historic World Cup semifinals in 2003, was handed the captain`s baton as he made an emotional farewell at the majestic Eden.
"Jimmy hurt his ligament muscle in the right knee and has been advised a few days rest. In his absence Tikolo was the obvious choice," Kenyan team spokesperson said.
It was an emotional moment for Tikolo, nearing 40, to bid goodbye to his international career having made his ODI debut against India at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on February 18 in the 1996 World Cup.
The exit of Tikolo marked the end of a golden era in Kenyan cricket when they made their World Cup debut in 1996, reached semifinals under his captaincy in 2003 but only to witness the side`s downfall.
Tikolo had on Saturday said it would be a great moment calling it a day at the historic Eden Gardens where he last played way back in 1998, when they lost to India by nine wickets in a Triangular series final. "It is nice to be playing (my last match) at Eden Gardens. I remember my first game at Eden Gardens in 1998 against India which was something special for the players with a crowd of over 80,000," Tikolo recollected. But with the inconsequential World Cup match on a day when India take on West Indies in a crucial group B match in Chennai, the turnout was sparse at the stadium.
Tikolo represented the country in 134 ODIs in an international career spanning 15 years. The maverick batsman also featured in 11 Twenty20 matches and scored 260 runs at an average of 32.50. The former captain regretted having not played Tests. "The ultimate in a cricketer`s career is to play in Tests. That is one thing I would have loved to do -- play Test cricket," Tikolo said.
He picked the 2003 semifinal against India as one of the high points of his career. "It was indeed a great moment in my career. Qualifying for the 1996 World Cup was also special," the Kenyan batsman said. Tikolo plans to take up coaching which is next on his agenda. "Right now, I am thinking about coaching maybe in Zimbabwe or Kenya and I will keep playing domestic cricket in Zimbabwe."
Tikolo was part of a successful era in Kenya cricket and ironically witnessed the low points of their team. Having played an instrumental role in the 1995 World Cup qualifiers to qualify for their maiden World Cup appearance, Tikolo was with the side when they upset the West Indies boasting of Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in Pune in 1996.
Tikolo was there when they beat India in 1998 and 2001 and led his side to wins over Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Canada to make the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup as they came very close to achieving Test status. But their dream soon faded away with the Kenyan cricket embroiled in mismanagement, as eight years after making the World Cup semis, they are still struggling to revive the game back home.
After Sunday`s show, Kenya may disappear from the scene for an indefinite period with the International Cricket Council`s proposal to trim the 2015 World Cup to a 10-team format.