WC 2003 - Its a case of when will you come home papa?

Published: Saturday, March 15, 2003, 22:35 [IST]
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Durban: The young Kenyan cricketers are having a tough time convincing their kids that they will be back home soon.Collins Obuya, Peter Ongondo and David Obuya, the youngest players in the Kenyan line-up, never dreamt of reaching so far in the World Cup and had told the kids that they would come home soon, considering the team was nothing more than rank outsider in an event tipped to be dominated by the big boys.But that was not to be. The Kenyans surprised everyone including themselves by reaching the semi-finals and now besides many other things to think of, they are also left coping with restless toddlers and missing home due to the prolonged trip. Not that anyone is complaining.The players, especially the young trio, cannot help reaching for their mobiles every now and then to speak to their people. Ongondo regularly calls up his wife, Sharon, and speaks to his three-year-old daughter, who often asks him when he will return home. "'Tomorrow,' I always tell her, and she sounds satisfied with that," says the burly medium pace bowler, who has been getting more runs than wickets for Kenya. Incidentally, Ongondo says he does not practice much with the bat. "I am a bowler and I concentrate on it because if I start batting, my bowling will suffer and I will not even make the team," he says. It is surprising that he has come up with crucial runs for Kenya in the lower order, making double figures every time. The 21-year-old Collins, on the other hand, says he would like to work on his batting more and become more of an all-rounder. The youngest of the three Obuya siblings in the Kenya team was certainly lost for words when he spun Sri Lanka into oblivion on that memorable Monday afternoon on February 24 at the Nairobi Gymkhana. Without prior experience of the international limelight that comes with that kind of performance, he struggled to find the words to answer the questions put to him. He was, however, clear about one thing. He wants to become the best bowler in Kenya. "I am happy with my performance today and I want to become the best bowler in Kenya," he said. His performance in the current World Cup has convinced many that he is a great talent and has a bright future in international cricket. Collins is Kenya's leading wicket taker in the tournament with 13 scalps to his credit. The only game in which he did not take a wicket was Kenya's opening game against South Africa in Potchefstrooom. He took two against Canada, one each against Bangladesh, West Indies and India, three against Zimbabwe with the match-winning haul of five against Sri Lanka at the Nairobi Gymkhana his most memorable. All the three cricketers have one thing in common they will stick to cricket as their career and are not looking anywhere else for their daily bread. "Compared to many of our age-mates at home, we consider ourselves lucky because we are earning a living by doing what we love doing most playing cricket, and that is why we do not take anything for granted," says Ongondo. While the Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) is apparently slow on efforts to increase the popularity of the game back at home, the Kenyan players are trying to spread it by encouraging those close to them to watch. During Kenya's match against Zimbabwe, David's girlfriend, Mary, an accountant, had one eye on the invoices and bank statements and the other on Kenya's run rate, and so was the case with Doris, Collin's sweetheart."They watch the games because we are involved and when they do, their friends and relatives also take an interest. Our friends and neighbours also want to know how we are faring and the game ends up spreading to more people," says David. They are also aware that compared to many of their age-mates, they earn good money by Kenyan sporting standards. They have look up to their seniors to learn how to deal with so much money. "We look up to them. We listen to their advice and follow their example on how to invest our money for the future. We have to be careful with our money," says Ongondo. It has not been easy for the young players, though. Ongondo, who first played for Swamibapa, says he had to walk on foot from Park Road all the way to Impala, Swamibapa's ground."Because we wanted to put in more time at the nets, we had to be at the grounds early. So we set off immediately we left school, and bowled long hours. "Tom (skipper Steve Tikolo) would then give us a ride home on the back of his pick-up truck. We were not paid a cent for it all. We just wanted to become good cricketers," says Ongondo, an alumnus of the Plascon Cricket Academy in Johannesburg. PTI


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