Kenya coach Eldine Baptiste is hoping that the final league game in the ICC Intercontinental Cup against Afghanistan will give cricket in that country a chance to start on a fresh note
Kenya host Afghanistan at Nairobi Gymkhana from 2 October to 5 October, with Afghanistan looking for a victory to secure top spot in the table.
Scotland and Afghanistan have already confirmed their places in the title round, while Kenya is currently fifth on the points table with 43 points, while Afghanistan is placed second with 77 points.
Yet, Baptiste considers the game to be very vital for the future of Kenya cricket.
"It's a very significant game for us. It will be a good time for us to check where we are in terms of all the preparations we have done over the last four months. We hadn't done well against Baroda and Gujarat (Indian Ranji sides) as well when they toured here.
"So this is the perfect opportunity to see where we stand. It is time to begin our cricket on a fresh note. We have got a wider range of players to choose from. This match will be a fair benchmark to see where we are as a team," said Baptiste.
For the game the Kenya team is strengthened by players returning either from retirement or their stints abroad. The most important among them is former skipper Steve Tikolo who has decided to come out of retirement.
The batting has been an area of concern for the Kenya coach and he is only too happy that it will be beefed up for the game.
"Steve's return is very good. Tanmay Mishra is back from India, Rageb Aga returns from his Sussex stint, Seren Waters from his stint with Durham University. The batting department looks a lot more settled than what it was before. We now have 11-12 claimants for six spots. That makes a big difference to our fortunes.
"We want to make Kenya the best associate team. We are not there at the moment. In terms of fielding and fitness terms we are on top. But it is in our batting that we need to do a lot of work. We need to make big runs. The top six need to make hundreds," admitted Baptiste.
The game will also be the first time Baptiste sees the Afghanistan side in action since he took over as coach. The former West Indies fast bowler has kept an eye on Afghanistan's progress through the course of the ICC Intercontinental Cup.
"Afghanistan batting has come good so far. It has ensured that they have a total that the bowlers can play with. They have on an average scored above 200 runs. Bowling has taken care of the game from thereon. I want to give my hats off to them. It will be a challenge to see how we go against them."
For the game, the Kenya team has trained for close to four months. They have camped together, played four-day games amongst themselves. And just before the match proper, the side played a two-day contest of 110 overs a day.
"We have had an ideal preparation. We need to go there and produce the goods that we are looking for. Aga, Seren, Steve are all part of the squad. So it's a good time for us. We also have the under-19s taking part in the trials, so it will be a wide pool to choose from."
Following the ICC Intercontinental Cup match, Kenya will play Afghanistan in a three-match One-Day International series as well. So the series against Afghanistan assumes significance especially with the showpiece ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 nearing.
"If we start the season on a winning note, then it will help us prepare well for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011," opined Baptiste.
The Kenya coach has made plans for his squad all with an eye on the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. After the Afghanistan series, the senior Kenya side will camp at South Africa's High Performance Centre to beat the rains in the country.
"Our under-19 team will play a few games against UAE in Mombasa. We have a camp planned in Dubai and then we are planning to get into India early to get used to the conditions in the subcontinent," informed Baptiste.
Kenya play its pool games in Sri Lanka and India at the ICC Cricket World Cup and Baptiste is keen that the players warm-up in the Indian state of Gujarat for a couple of weeks to get used to the weather. To top it, Baptiste, too will pass on knowledge of playing in India.
"My experience of the subcontinent will come in handy. But we must peak at the right moment. It is important that we are not either overworked or underworked. Come what may, when the first game of ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 comes around we need to be fresh."
But overall Baptiste wants his side to give their effort and not bother about the end result.
"I would like to win at all times. But if we play well and lose, that's a different matter. I want to see us being competitive, and play with a lot of passion. The spirit should be to go out and win. But we need to learn to take the rough with the smooth."