September 14, 2009


Africa at the crossroads

Martin Williamson

Africa needs to look hard at itself and ask this question: why are there only two teams from the continent going to New Zealand for the Under-19s World Cup in January? And of the two, no-one can ever be too sure about Zimbabwe.

No non-Test nation (apart, now, from Zimbabwe) has made it through from Africa; whereas Asia will have six representatives (two non-Test sides), the Americas and Caribbean three (two non-Test nations), the Antipodes three (Australia, New Zealand and non-Test Papua New Guinea), and Europe two (one non-Test).

Uganda nearly made it through, but in the end they came out also-rans and, like Vanuatu, hom they beat, were not really up to scratch. Sierra Leone did not appear for the Toronto qualifiers - might they have been a surprise package or, more likely, mere fodder for the better teams? And Kenya were a no-shower for other reasons, compounded in part by their own foolishness amid premature assumptions that they would host the tournament.

So, the second question is this - and it's one that's been asked before: whither Africa?

South Africa will always hold its own; Zimbabwe seems possibly to be coming back; Uganda (where 38,000 people play the game) still appears promising; and Kenya has a lot to do. Backstage, Tanzania also hold promise, but Botswana recently took a biffing at the World Cricket League Division 6 event in Singapore.

Nigeria may be an untapped talent; Ghana are making efforts to climb; Malawi, on the other hand, and Zambia too, have faded away. Namibia are somewhere in-between, blowing hot and cold. One day Morocco may come through, but it will be a long time before Mali does. In the wings, and whether they can fly or not nobody really knows, are Mozambique, Rwanda, Lesotho, Swaziland, Cameroon and the Gambia, while way offshore there lies little St Helena.

As yet, no Egypt. Why not?

It's not a particularly rosy picture; nor is it one of total despair. What it does illustrate, though, is that more resources need to be ploughed into the continent and proper development programmes carried through.

We could start with no less than adequate press coverage of cricket, so desperately lacking across most of the continent. So let's start there; the oxygen of publicity may be the saving of cricket in Africa.

What do others say?
Colin MacBeth

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Vikram Maingi on (September 18, 2009, 6:30 GMT)

Better performances from Namibia, Uganda and Nigeria are expected in future. Namibia is decent in the longer veersion of the game (i.e. 4day games) but has faded in limited overs after the 2003 World Cup. ICC needs to have separate ratings system for these teams for all the three versions of the game.

Posted by AllyBazz on (September 17, 2009, 17:29 GMT)

The problems of african cricket should be seen in the context of the wider socio-economic problems of the continent. It is difficult to get focus on a game like cricket when there are more pressing issues to worry about. Having said that, I agree with Simon that organisation is critical, and very often that is lacking in african cricket. There is a bit of a vicious circle in that you need good organisation to draw financial resources into the game, but you also need financial resources to be available to attract good quality people. A lot of cricket administration in Africa at the associate/affiliate level is done by people who are doing it in their spare time, and with the best will in the world there is only so much that they can do.

Posted by Terry Wise on (September 15, 2009, 7:02 GMT)

It hasn't helped Uganda's cause that 6 of their players are now reported 'missing' in Toronto.

Posted by Simon Butler on (September 15, 2009, 0:00 GMT)

I agree, Africa is a platform of genuine talent and yet it seems to me that the biggest problem isn't just resources or press coverage; which are also valid reason, don't get me wrong on that one. But the biggest issue is the management of the game across many of these nations. Kenya is a great example, because if resources and talent were all it took for the game to thrive, Kenya should have been playing test cricket five years ago. At the end of the day a nation can have all of the talent, media coverage and resources it wants, but unless there are management structures and plan in place to ensure the validity of those structures and the proper distribution of the available resources. South Africa is not a concern, but Zimbabwe and Kenya both need serious restructuring at the management level.

Posted by ashton jose mascarenhas,GOA on (September 14, 2009, 20:08 GMT)

looks like zimbabwe are going to get better due to the return of the self exiled players...well Kenya seems to have faded after 2003WC ..what about swaziland??? beign landlocked by south africa..

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Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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