November 20, 2007

Rwanda

Landmines at mid-on; batting into the Commonwealth

Will Luke

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.

RELATED LINKS

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo

RSS Feeds: Will Luke

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Arjun Chaudhuri on (November 28, 2007, 10:14 GMT)

The ICC, as also the Commonwealth should lend their whole-hearted support to the progress of cricket in Rwanda. The Commonwealth should look to make cricket a regular affair in the Commonwealth Games. It’s a pity that cricket is still not a regular at the international sporting events.

Regular matches against teams from Tanzania, Uganda and ICC World Cup participants Namibia and Kenya, in particular should do a world of good to Rwandan cricket at its current nascent stage. These, complemented with expertise from South Africa can soon see Rwanda graduating to an ICC Associate member from their current status as an Affiliate member of the world’s apex cricket body. This is especially since the Rwandans, like the Kenyans, are generally athletic.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Luke
Assistant editor Will opted against a lifetime of head-bangingly dull administration in the NHS, where he had served for two years. In 2005 came a break at Cricinfo where he slotted right in as a ferociously enthusiastic tea drinker and maker, with a penchant for using "frankly" and "marvellous". He also runs The Corridor, a cricket blog where he can be found ranting and raving about all things - some even involving the sport. He is a great-great nephew of Sir Jack Newman, the former Wellingtonian bowler who took two wickets at 127 apiece for New Zealand.

All articles by this writer