Tikolo: “We have looked to change the team philosophy, emphasised on national pride”
Amini: “We have increased our workload in all three departments, while training”
The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 (CWCQ) will be staged from 13 January to 1 February, and aiming to seal one of the two berths up for grabs at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (CWC) through this tournament are Kenya player-cum-coach Steve Tikolo and Papua New Guinea (PNG) captain Chris Amini.
Elaborating on how extensive Kenya’s preparations have been, Steve Tikolo said: “We’ve been gearing up really well for the CWCQ.
“Ever since we returned from the UAE, we have been working hard to make sure we perfect the areas we didn’t do well in during the ICC World T20 Qualifier 2013.
“We have had net-sessions, match situations and simulation, gym sessions, one-on-one technical sessions and video analysis sessions. Our sessions with renowned coaches Gary Kirsten and Mudassar Nazar have also been really productive.
“Gary has stressed on strategies and the mental aspect of the game, while Mudassar has worked on the technical and tactical aspects.”
Tikolo is a member of a select band of cricketers that have featured in five editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup, having played in the 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 editions.
Stating the weather in Nairobi has helped Kenya simulate New Zealand conditions, Tikolo said: “We’ve had a lot of rain and overcast conditions in Nairobi of late, and that has helped us replicate the conditions there, which aid swing and seam.
“I feel the two warm-up matches we have before the tournament in New Zealand will further assist us in getting acclimatised.”
Tikolo, who averaged 65 with the bat in the last edition of the CWCQ in South Africa, said Kenya has been dynamic in the build-up to the CWCQ, adding: “I feel with the new think-tank including new captain Rakep Patel, there has been a breath of fresh air, and that is evident in the way the players have been tuning up over the last couple of weeks or so.
“The vibe in our camp is very positive, and the players are all going that extra mile to make sure they are ready and well prepared for the tournament. Our strategies and tactics may not have changed that much, but what we have looked to change is the team philosophy.
“There is a lot more emphasis on national pride, calmness, positivity and togetherness.
Signing off by saying it will be tough for all teams to progress to the Super Six stage from Group B, Tikolo, who has taken on the coach’s mantle from Robin Brown, added: “As a team, we know there is no such thing as an easy opposition or tougher opponent, in this sort of a tournament and with so much at stake.”
Explaining how Papua New Guinea is leaving no stone unturned in its preparations, Chris Amini said: “Our training and match-practise have both been very good and very intense.
“We recently returned from Adelaide, after winning the inaugural South Australia Cricket Association (SACA) Premier League Twenty20 Cup. There is now a change in format for us, but nothing we’re not accustomed to, since we’ve played 50-over cricket for a long time.
“We have focused on increasing the volume of work in all three departments (batting, bowling and fielding) during our post-Christmas training sessions.”
PNG recently missed out on qualifying for the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 through the ICC World T20 Qualifier UAE 2013. Amini, who is a right-hand batsman and right-arm medium bowler, said his side is working hard to avoid a repeat, adding: “We need to be a lot more consistent in all areas of the game.
“We had our plans in place in the UAE as well, but didn’t execute them well. This is something that will be of paramount importance – our execution of plans – if we are to qualify for the ICC CWC 2015.
Assessing PNG’s competitors in Group B, which also includes Kenya, Namibia, the Netherlands and Uganda, Amini said: “All teams will be a big challenge to us, and we can’t take any of them lightly.
“Each side will be hungry to succeed. Some had a disappointing T20 campaign in the UAE, so they won’t be holding anything back. We played against some of these teams in the UAE, but this will obviously be a different format.
Revealing how excited he and his PNG team-mates are about qualifying for a major ICC global event for the very first time, Amini said: “It would be massive for the country as a whole.
“PNG is very passionate about sports. If we qualify, it will be huge for not just PNG but for the EAP region as well. We have great support in the region, and everyone wants us to succeed.
“There’s always pressure when you play for your country, and coming so close to qualifying for the ICC World T20 2014 has only raised expectations. However, we’d be wasting our time if we were to say we didn’t have a chance of qualifying and winning the tournament.”
The CWCQ will see 48 matches being played across seven venues. The top three teams from each group will progress to the Super Six stage. The top two teams after the Super Six stage will in turn progress to the final and also book their passage through to the ICC CWC 2015.
Schedule of forthcoming releases:
2 Jan –CWCQ coaches Aqib Javed, Paul Collingwood and Pubudu Dassanayake reveal different coaching strategies and philosophies
6 Jan – Preview of Group A
7 Jan –Preview of Group B