What you need to know:
- Kenya open their campaign against neighbours Rwanda on Wednesday at the United Cricket Ground from 10:30 am
- Apart from being the only teenager, who made the cut to the squad dominated by experienced players, Vishil stands out from the rest –whether in training or during tournaments
- He was among Kenya’s top bowlers in the inaugural Continent Cup T20 Africa with eight wickets from five matches
You would expect any budding player to be intimidated by stage fright. But not Kenyan teenage cricketer Vishil Patel.
Confident of putting up a good show, the 18-year-old cannot wait for the 2024 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup Africa qualifiers to bowl off on Wednesday in Windhoek, Namibia.
With seven teams – Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Rwanda – battling for the two slots in the upcoming global championship, the nine-day tournament promises to be enthralling.
The 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will be co-hosted by the United States of America and West Indies tentatively from June 4 to 30.
“I’m not under pressure to perform. I have done the hard work in training and hopefully, it will pay off,” says the bowler.
He spoke to Nation Sport last Friday during Team Kenya’s last home training session at Ruaraka Sports Club Ground in Nairobi.
Cricket Kenya selection panel named a strong 15-man squad for the tournament. Ex-internationals Lameck Onyango and Joseph Angara are the team’s coach and assistant coach respectively.
Kenya open their campaign against neighbours Rwanda on Wednesday at the United Cricket Ground from 10:30 am.
Apart from being the only teenager who made the cut to the squad dominated by experienced players, Vishil stands out from the rest –whether in training or during tournaments.
His element comes alive every time he takes to the pitch.
But that's not all: He will be the only player in the team to have represented Kenya in two different ICC World Cup qualifiers this year. In July, the Ruaraka Cricket Club youngster led Kenya men’s junior cricket team to a second-place finish at the 2024 ICC Under-19 Men’s World Cup Africa qualifiers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Nigeria are the teams that battled for the sole berth in the global championship.
Peerless Namibia clinched the World Cup ticket with nine points, two more than Kenya who only lost to the Southern Africa nation.
Vishil says that featuring in the tournament in Dar es Salaam and the inaugural Continent Cup T20 Africa at Nairobi Gymkhana in June with Kenya’s senior side equipped him with the requisite skills to help Kenya make a return to the World Cup since 2011.
How to handle pressure on the big stage, play in different situations in tough matches, and motivate each other are some of the key traits in the teenager's arsenal, which he hopes to leverage for the competition at hand.
“Every time I wear the Kenyan jersey, I just want to do my best and prove to everyone why I have been selected,” says the youngster.
“It was a great experience for me to learn a lot there (Dar es Salaam) and carry some of the lessons to the World Cup qualifiers and hopefully help Kenya qualify…Personally, I don’t take any team as tough because in T20 cricket, if it is your day, you will win.”
“For me, I just look to pick as many wickets as I can for the team, contribute in the field and also even if I’m not playing, I just support and motivate my teammates,” he adds.
His recent impressive performances both at club and national team level have influenced his repeated selection to Kenya’s senior squad.
He was among Kenya’s top bowlers in the inaugural Continent Cup T20 Africa with eight wickets from five matches.
With Ruaraka in the 2023 Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association Super Division 50 Overs League, Vishil took 18 wickets in nine innings to be ranked 17th.
Swamibapa Cricket Club’s Vraj Patel took the most wickets in the league at 31 in 14 innings.
"I have been bowling for quite a long time, learning new things and practicing them on the ground. I also make sure my fitness is on top so that I make the cut (to the national team) every time,” says the lower-order batsman, reckoning that his parents have been instrumental in his continued rise in the sport.
The two wickets he took in Kenya’s five-wicket loss to Uganda in the Continent Cup T20 Africa are nostalgic to him as it was at the four-nation tournament that he made his senior T20 debut against a tough Cranes side.
Botswana and Rwanda are the other teams that competed in the tournament where Kenya lost by one run to Uganda in the final.
As a child, football was Vishil’s first love. But after watching a thrilling live cricket match on television, he changed his mind for good. He was only six then.
“I just started to develop fun out of this game and got addicted to it. Since then, I have never thought of playing football again,” narrates the Premier Academy alumnus.
“It gives me overall strength and fitness, also I can improve on my mental strength, and just for the love of the game that is why I play cricket.”
Vishil made his international debut in the 2024 ICC Under-19 Men’s World Cup Africa Division Two qualifiers held in Nigeria in October last year.
Helping the Kenya Under-19 side earn promotion to the Division One by winning the tournament, the teenager reckoned is among his major achievements so far in the sport.
Veterans Collins Obuya and Rakep Patel are the Kenyan players he looks up to.
While Kenya’s skipper Rakep has helped him to improve his match awareness, fielding, and bowling, he chooses to keep secret what tips Obuya has given him, saying he intends to use them in dismantling their opponents in Namibia.
And how lucky is he to be coached by Onyango, who at 50 still plays competitive cricket?
"For the last few months that he has been coaching me, he has helped me so much. I keep on listening to what he says because he has a lot of experience and he has made so many top players," says the budding cricketer.
Obuya, 42, believes the teenager has what it takes to become a great cricketer. “Playing alongside me and other experienced players is a good opportunity for him (Vishil). He just needs to enjoy himself, train hard, and face the challenge whenever it comes. If he is very keen and continues asking questions he will learn many things which will help him grow a lot,” says the evergreen batsman.
Angara who is known for nurturing upcoming cricketers heaped praise on the teenager.
“He is a player with a good attitude and work ethic. Coming from the World Cup qualifiers in Tanzania, he has earned his place in the senior team because of his hard work and dedication,” says the national team’s assistant coach.
Kenya Under-19 men’s cricket team coach Coach Josphat Irungu also spoke glowingly of Vishil.
“Being a leg spinner is really working to his advantage because most teams now prefer to have leg spinners. But most of all, he is a hardworking player, a good leader whom I believe will one day captain the senior team,” says Irungu.
With his stars in cricket having aligned, Vishil dreams of playing in the prestigious Indian Premier League and helping Kenya scale greater heights in the sport.
“I just wish to perform the best for my country and take them to newer heights which they have never achieved before. Also if I get a chance to play in other franchise leagues, that would be a proud moment for me,” he underlined.