East Africa prepares for new superleagues
Cricket Kenya’s latest initiative to help develop the strength of the country’s domestic game gets underway later this week with the start of the new regional Twenty20 and 50-over franchise competitions.
For a long time there has been a huge gap between standards of the country’s premier league run by the NPCA and the national team. A previous attempt to organise a competition for the leading players failed because of funding and a lack of interest among participants.
But following Kenya’s wretched performance at the World Cup, the board has made sweeping changes, backed by the government and stakeholders, and the East Africa Premier League and East African Cup are perhaps the boldest. Furthermore, the decision to include teams from neighbours Uganda will not only give an edge to matches, but will also help development in one of the most promising up-and-coming Associates.
Four teams from Kenya will participate - the Nairobi Buffaloes, Kongonis both based in the capital, the Rift Valley Rhinos from Nakuru and Coast Pekee in Mombasa - while Rwenzori Warriors and Nile Knights will represent Uganda. Teams will be comprised of international players, senior club players and age group cricketers aiming to make the national squads of both countries. The top two teams in each competition will compete in live televised finals at the end of October.
Cricket Kenya has agreed a broadcast deal with Supersport who will televise a number of live matches throughout Africa as well as a regular highlights and magazine programme.
“This is a hugely exciting development for cricket in the region, one which we hope will improve playing standards and ignite a real interest and passion for the game throughout the region,” CK’s chief executive Tom Sears said. “We hope by concentrating the pool of talent we have into a smaller number of teams playing highly competitive cricket, the fortunes of our national teams will improve over time and lower down, in domestic and age group cricket, standards will improve as players strive to make one of the franchise teams.
“There has already been significant interest in the East Africa Premier League and East African Cup from both the cricket and corporate worlds and we believe once the competition commences this will grow and continue to grow in future years.”
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa