I cry for Kenyan cricket: It does not need a doctor now, but a mortician - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

I cry for Kenyan cricket: It does not need a doctor now, but a mortician

 

Where is cricket in Kenya?

While most other so called big sports -- football, rugby, athletics, golf, rallying, basketball, volleyball and hockey, have restarted or are on the verge of resuming since the Covid-19 enforced activity suspension last March, our beloved cricket has been mute.

It is telling that there has been no noticeable agitation from the cricket authorities for the return to action, no clamor from fans to see regular league games once again being played on our cricket pitches, no impassioned conversations on social media on the lack of top class cricket action in the country.

It seems Kenyan cricket is as dead as a dodo.

 Golf, not much of a spectator sport, resumed last year and has had activity after activity.

Even though, truth be told, Kenya has never produced a genuine world class pro player, the golfing fraternity in the country will be satisfied that their society of tee shots, fairways, white balls, greens and club houses painted red during after parties, is alive and kicking.

Football resumed late last year with the elite leagues in full swing now while the vibrant community game never stopped.

 Volleyball’s top league restarted two weeks ago and rugby had its first weekend of elite matches just days ago. Athletics is going on at full throttle.

Basketball is on the cusp of a major achievement – Kenya Morans qualifying for the AfroBasket finals for the first time since 1993.

All these sports have been vocal about returning to whatever normalcy that can be obtained in these Covid-19 times. 

But what of our beloved cricket? Even during the Covid-19 lockdown, there was little talk about how the game could resume. The noise was endless wrangles and power fights to nowhere.

 Cricket’s fall from grace has been relentless. We have sunk so low, so spectacularly, that, as former Attorney General  Githu Muigai would say, “the patient (in this case cricket) does not need a doctor, but a mortician.”

It is a far cry from the heady days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when Kenya was a high-flying Associate Member of International Cricket Council with ODI (One Day International) status, regularly playing in the World Cup and intermittently upsetting the big boys, West Indies, India, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh et al.

Talk was rife of the country acquiring Test status while common banter on the street was spiced with cricket terminology, for example “unlimited overs” for having drinks all night and “hit for six” for being outdone.

Small wonder every journalist wanted to cover cricket.

Who can forget Kenya’s historic performance at the 2003 Cricket World Cup that we co-hosted with South Africa and Zimbabwe?

Asif Karim, Martin Suji, Tom Tikolo, Maurice Odumbe, Thomas Odoyo, Ravindu Shah and company made it to the semi-finals of the tournament, a first for a non-Test nation in the history of the game.

I can remember as clearly as when I met my first love, Kenya’s huge upset of formidable Sri Lanka featuring spin bowling wizard Muttiah Mulirathan, and fearsome batsmen Marvan Atapattu,Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva at Nairobi’s Gymkhana Club.

I watched the whole game -- nine hours and all -- at a hotel in Nairobi with several friends as Kenya set a modest target of 210. Helped by a partisan home crowd and inspired bowling from Collins Obuya (5/24), we scuttled Sri Lanka all out for 157 to famously win by 53 runs.

However, the anticipated progression to Test status and leap into prosperity never came. Instead, the game went into reverse.

Officials squabbled over money and feuded over control of the game nationally and locally, players went on strike. The upshot was government intervention, court cases and stalled development of the game.

Kenya lost its ODI status in 2014 and is now just an Associate Member equally ranked alongside, and this is no slight to them, countries like Austria, Bermuda, Eswatini, Gambia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Qatar and Vanuatu.

A peek at espcricinfo.com, that guru of cricket information, shows that there is no single international engagement lined up for Kenya this year, thus far. No incoming or outgoing tour.

The last international outing by a Kenyan team was way back on December 7, 2019 when a Twenty-20 fixture between our senior national women’s side and their Batswana counterparts was abandoned in Gaborone. 

On the local scene, I understand some 2020 club fixtures may resume this weekend yet there is no buzz from the cricket fraternity on this development. You would think people have been asked to watch water filling up a bucket.

Many veritable cricket grounds are no more. A hospital stands were the Aga Khan Sports Club pitch once stood, Premier Club pitch now hosts football, volleyball games, Jaffrey Club pitch is more of a Sunday afternoon picnic ground, Ruaraka Sports Club pitch resembles an oxen- ploughed ground. In cricket parlance, the pitches have suffered a “dismissal”.

To be fair, other factors in the world game and in India have had a profound effect on the growth of the game in Kenya, but the biggest blame squarely falls on the officials (and those fighting to be officials) and the cricket community that stood by as the game slid, slowly, inexorably into oblivion.

I cry for cricket, tears of pain at the demise of something once fondly loved.

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