Landmines at mid-on; batting into the Commonwealth
Jonathan Clayton provides a fascinating piece in today’s Times on cricket in Rwanda and how important the sport has been in their joining the Commonwealth. Despite Rwanda’s French connection, they applied to join in December 2006 and Britain has donated £46m a year. Clayton tells us that Tony Blair, on hearing of Rwanda’s proposed membership, said: “Well, they do play cricket don’t they?”
“I think you can say we have batted our way into the Commonwealth,” said Charles Haba, president of the Rwanda Cricket Association, who has persuaded six schools to start playing and has gained affiliate status with the International Cricket Board.
The new-found enthusiasm for cricket chimes with Mr Kagame’s desire that Rwanda, a former Belgian colony that became a close ally of France at independence, should adopt English as the language of choice. Language is an emotive issue because of its association with the genocide. Those responsible for the killings of some one million moderate Hutus and Tutsis were largely French speakers.
Mr Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel movement, which ended the genocide and now forms the bulk of the Government, was primarily English-speaking. It largely consisted of Tutsi refugees, whose parents had fled previous Hutu-led pogroms in the 1950s and 60s and settled in neighbouring English-speaking countries, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Many of the Tutsi “boys” who grew up in exile learnt to play cricket. When they finally returned home, they brought the game – and the English language – with them.The game is now helping to overcome some of the divisions left by the genocide. The country’s five teams contain Hutus, Tutsis and several Rwandan Asians.
“Good batting, good batting,” comes the cry from the corrugated-iron roof pavilion at Kicukiro. “Tank you bowler, tank you bowler,” yells Bob Bashir, 15, enthusiastically clapping gloved hands as a lanky bowler races in and pitches the next ball wide.
Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo