WC 2003 - Kenyan cricket owes its grand success to Asians
Published: Friday, March 14, 2003, 22:10 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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Nairobi: When Kenya plays India in the semi-finals of the World Cup under the lights of Durban next Thursday, it will be like a meeting of two old friends. After all the two countries have had a lot in common in the last two decades. The development of Kenyan cricket, introduced first by the British colonial powers at the end of the 19th century, was later harnessed by members of the Asian community, who had immigrated from the sub-continent to settle in East Africa.The different Asian communities living in Kenya played organised matches among themselves at their own clubs as a pass-time.It was only a matter of time before children of African families living and working within the Asian-run institutions took interest in the sport.One of the first African players to get involved was Kenneth Odumbe elder brother of Maurice, one of the men who has taken Kenya to the last four.He played for Pangani Sports Club in Nairobi, a kilometre away from the Sunni Muslim-owned Sir Ali Muslim club, which dominated the Kenyan cricket league from the 1960 to 1982.Odumbe laid the foundation. Others such as Tom Tikolo - current skipper Steve Tikolo's elder brother - followed suit. Nearly the entire Odumbe and Tikolo brothers took up the sport."Many of the black kids who lived in the government quarters used to go and watch the Asian kids play cricket and we were impressed," remembers Tom Tikolo, who rose through the ranks to become Kenya's first black captain.The gifted African players were not only assimilated to play for the clubs, but they were educated by their Asian employers."If it wasn't for the Asians, our cricket would not be where it is," said Richard Mwangi, a veteran Kenyan cricket journalist."All the clubs in the country were privately owned but the Asians waived the membership for Africans to play and those going to schools and colleges were paid for," added Mwangi."The clubs had a big role to play in our careers and the development of cricket in general," said Tikolo, whose club, Swamibapa, paid his school fees through primary and high school and later took him to a college to study civil engineering.Tikolo, who led Kenya to three International Cricket Council (ICC) Trophy tournaments, including the 1994 finals in Nairobi, was appointed the ICC development officer for East Africa in 2000.During his league days with Swamibapa, a quarry and construction-based club, Tikolo brushed shoulders with several Indian professionals who were employed by Kenyan clubs to improve the standards of the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) league.Among the professionals from the sub-continent were former India team coach Anshuman Gaekwad, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Chandrakant Pandit and the current Kenya coach, Sandeep Patil.The arrival of the professionals meant the competition between the foreign and local players intensified.But instead of the hostilities between the clubs, friendship was cemented further when the India national team and the country's provincial sides started touring Kenya for a series of matches."The first Indian professionals who came to Kenya between 1986 and 1990 were players of calibre and were very encouraging to our players," said Tikolo.The India national team visited Kenya for the first time in 1992 on a stopover to Zimbabwe. They played and beat Kenya by 80 runs.Since then the two sides have played each other seven times, with India winning five times.Kenya only registered victories in the preliminary match of the Coca-Cola Cup in Gwalior, India, in 1998 and during the triangular limited overs tournament in South Africa in 2001.The two teams met in the Super Six here on March 7 with the Indians winning by six wickets.