International cricket witnessed the end of an era today, as Steve Tikolo bid farewell as he found himself LBW for 10 against Zimbabwe. The reaction to his dismissal was extraordinary as Zimbabwe cricketers crowded around to shake his hand as he trudged off the pitch for one last time.
Because if one man has come to embody his countries ups and downs during their brief history in international cricket, it has been this man.
For every high point-the 2003 World Cup for instance-there has been a low point-this tournament in particular0yet the constant throughout has been Tikolo, a batsman of rare talent who was offered precious few opportunities to show it against the best.
But when he did, more often than not he delivered. His record is testament to that, posting half centuries against the Test playing nations like West Indies and England. He was no great technician, but struck the ball powerfully, and could settle well against both seam and spin-attacking both competently.
He was the prized Kenyan wicket for over 15 years, but he was also an ambassador for their game and an embodiment of what Kenya were trying to achieve. Captaining them to the semi-finals in 2003, despite struggling for runs in the tournament, was a personal highlight.
That tournament ought to have heralded more for Kenya and for Tikolo. The mismanagement and broken promises that have dragged down Kenyan cricket have been well documented. The contrast between then and now is stark.
But in both instances, though vastly different, there has been the elder statesmen attempting to hold things together for his country.
Ultimately, it was not the most glorious of exits and perhaps not fitting for a man who has achieved so much in the game. But significant it certainly was.
His name will not go down as one of the greats of the game but for what he embodied and achieved for Kenyan cricket, Steve Tikolo’s feats deserved far more than the ending they got. Because as he left the stage one last time it was not just the ending of a career, but a whole era in Kenyan cricket.
From then until now there has been only Tikolo, Kenya’s heartbeat through it all. The likes of him seldom come around very often, and both international cricket and particularly Kenyan cricket will certainly be a poorer place without him.