Kenyan Cricket is on the rise again, but not at the pace it should be. Reckons Kenyan International Irfan Karim. Karim remains hopeful but asserts that it will take efforts and commitment from all stakeholders for Kenya to regain the form that took her to the semi-Finals of the world cup in 2003. Kenyanstar caught up with the 24 years old Wicket Keeper and son of the great Aasif Karim for the following Interview on our Kenyan Star of the week column.
KS: So who is Irfan Karim
Well I'd say i have a strong passion for cricket, I'm a relaxed guy and take things very easy except when I'm training or playing cricket. I am also a Loughborough Univeristy graduate in Sports Science with Management.
KS: When did you discover your love for Cricket?
At a very young age and mostly inspired by my farther when i watched him play. I think for you to be a good player you have to start at a very young age.
KS: Do we have enough young players currently playing cricket?
Yes,… I have seen a lot of kids making an effort to learn the game. What we don't have are sufficient facilities and not just in cricket but as well in other sports like Football, Rugby and Athletics. Kenya has plenty of talent in all these sports like we have proved severally but what we lack are proper infrastructure and training facilities. If they do not get exposure to these facilities it becomes difficult no matter how talented they are.
KS: Besides the National team do you play for any local club?
No at the moment i don't play for any local club. My current club is Rothley Park CC who play in the Leicestershire Premier League.
KS: This is by choice?
Yes, it is a personal decision i do not want to play for any local club at the moment.
KS: What is the greatest match you have ever played in?
Scoring my first ODI 100. That was in Dubai against Canada. I had always wanted to score ODI 100 in an international match and i managed to do that. That is a memory that will stay with me for a long time.
KS: Have you ever replicated your performance in the said match?
Yes two years later i did it against Netherlands in Newzealand and that was more important than the first one because if we lost we were out of the tournament but we managed to win that match and progressed to the second round.
KS: How do you prepare for a big match or a tournament?
In the lead up to it, say a month or so I do Intense trainings way before the match but getting closer to the match day the sessions become lighter and finally on the last day before the match i prefer to relax and save my energy for the match.
KS: How do you motivate yourself to be consistent and remain at the top level?
I always try to do better. So my most recent result is my yardstick going into the next match.
KS: In your opinion and in brief how would you describe the current state of Kenyan Cricket?
If you look at the results we've gone down since 2003, but the most important thing is that we need to get back up and this comes from the Players, the board, the media plays a big role too, and the fans as well
KS: Is there any aspect of your game that you think requires a little working on?
Definitely you are always trying to improve. For me it's just about getting better physically by hitting the gym, while batting- scoring more runs, when keeping, It is about saving more runs and just constantly all round improving. The moment you stop learning that's when you start going down and this affects the team because a team sport needs everyone at their best.
KS: How does it feel to belong to a sporting dynasty with both your dad and grand dad having represented Kenya in Tennis and Cricket? Do their achievements heap any pressure on you to perform?
It's quite rare to have three generations playing sports at the highest level but to be honest it only crosses my mind when I'm asked about it so it doesn't give me pressure at all. I've grown confident in my game over the last few years and yes i feel some pressure before a match to deliver to my potential but this is absolutely natural and has nothing to do with my dad and grand dad.
KS: What does your dad do? Do you often get together maybe on the fields?
He is my fan just like i was his fan and he supports me a lot but he spends most of his time running his business; The Safinaz group of Investments that deals in Insurance, Real Estate and a monthly sports magazine. He's been doing this since his International retirement in 2003.
KS: Do you think your generation can achieve beyond what your father's generation achieved?
Well our main goal at the National team at the moment is to qualify for the 2019 world cup. This is probably more difficult now because ICC has brought it down to 10 teams from the Initial 14 but obviously nothing is impossible. We will just keep working and i believe we have sufficient talent in the team to make it happen. It is just now down to us the players, how hard do we want to work, how disciplined are we, how much extra training hours do we put in.
KS: You have been quoted previously asserting that Kenyan cricket was on an upward trend, are we moving up at the right pace?
We still need to play and win more matches because the more you win the more matches you play and that comes with growth in confidence. So i think we are making progress but it is slow progress and this is again for all stake holders because the board has to support the players and the players needs to return any investment that the board makes. It is more like a Business relationship.
KS: Talking of Business do you think there is enough corp orate involvement in Kenyan Cricket?
We need more sponsors to support the sport. The kind of facilities needed for success in sports is massive and without corporate participation it is very difficult so i appeal to corporate organizations to support not just cricket but sports in the country.
KS: Who are some of the top Kenyan players you have played with?
That would be Steve Tikolo and Maurice Odumbe. Both of them are all rounders and they have done very well representing the country and i think we need to look at them as role models.
KS: Do you follow any other sport as a fan besides cricket?
I enjoy watching football, more specifically the UEFA Champions league. I don't support any specific team, i just enjoy the game.
KS: Do you think our local sports can hit levels of the UEFA Champions League?
In terms of talent definitely yes but then there are other things like the facilities, the coaches and even the correct mindset which remain a challenge to us.
KS: What would be your parting shot to Kenyan Cricket Fans and other readers of kenyanstar?
I just want to encourage the Cricket Board to support the young kids more because they are our future and to the kids i would like to encourage them to enjoy sports, not just cricket and also to study and work hard as they follow their dreams in whichever career.