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October 6, 2004
At the moment the Kenya Cricket Association is embroiled in a court case which, in essence, revolves around its creation of three new provincial associations in 2002. Opponents of the board claim that the move was unconstitutional, and furthermore that it was done to ensure that the existing committee and officials retained control.
These allegations have all been denied, and on August 31 the KCA issued a press release addressing recent criticism, and naming a number of clubs which it claimed formed the basis of the new Central region.
At a council meeting in May, Sharad Ghai, now the KCA's chairman, referred to a letter he said he had received from Thika Gymkhana, Thika Sports Club, Ruiru Sports Club and Makuyu Club stating that they wished to form a provincial association. It was decided there that there should be such an association in Central, provided the clubs concerned were cricket clubs, although the minutes of the meeting make no mention of this at all.
Wisden Cricinfo decided to take a closer look at these four clubs, and so we sent representatives, all of whom are deeply involved in Kenyan cricket, to investigate. This is their report:
"Thika Sports Club has golf, swimming and tennis as its sporting activities. The groundsman showed us a field on which there were two rugby goalposts, and told us that this was the former cricket ground. He explained that cricket was last played there in the 1980s, and when this died out it became a rugby ground - until that also died out about four or five years ago. There is no club cricket team, nor is cricket of any description played there.
"Thika Gymkana is a small club with a pool and a gymnasium. Land at the back of the clubhouse is used for informal cricket, which was being played there by children when we visited. It is tiny, and the kids batted on one side of the wicket only. The club has no team, nor does it take part in any representative cricket at all. It is largely a social club. The children begged us for kit and pleaded that they could raise an Under-15 side, adding that they really wanted to play in Nairobi. Some of them played for other division four teams in Nairobi at weekends.
"The youngsters did confirm that there had been elections in the province, and that Joshua Kiragu had been elected chairman. But they explained that these elections did not even take place in Central province. They took place at the KCA's offices at the Ruaraka Club in Nairobi, and we were told that only two clubs attended. As the KCA constitution demands a minimum of three clubs, and the elections were not even held in the province itself, the validity of the meeting must be dubious.
"How Makuyu could ever be treated as a cricket club defies comprehension. It is a golf club which is virtually dying following the loss of its main sponsor, Kakuzi Limited, a large horticultural company in the area. It has no facilities to play cricket at all, and its groundsman was totally baffled when we asked him about cricket. The club's facilities are pretty spartan.
"Ruiru is a golf club (and a nine-hole one at that) and is struggling to survive. The immediate past golf captain of the club confirmed that it had no facilities, let alone any desire, to play cricket."
The way that cricket clubs function in Kenya is that they are generally part of larger all-encompassing sports clubs. So, often while there is provision for there to be a cricket club, there is no separate organisation or committee. When we put our findings to the KCA, Sammy Obingo, the general manager, insisted that at no stage was it indicated the clubs named were playing organised cricket.
"It should be noted that a number of clubs in both Mombasa and in Nairobi do not have cricket clubs - eg Memon, Patel, Union and Simba Union in Mombasa - do not have their grounds and use other clubs grounds, and in Nairobi, Swamibabpa do not have there own ground and they use Premier club's ground," said Obingo. "The issue of clubs owning their own cricket grounds should not be the only criteria to determine weather a club can play cricket or not."
The clubs cited by Obingo do, however, fulfill other criteria, such as all having at least 25 active cricket-playing members and all played at least one year of fixtures before being allowed to enter a league. And, while ground sharing is a viable proposition in the main centres of Nairobi and Mombasa, in the more remote regions it becomes less viable.
But there have to be serious questions asked when clubs, some of which have been cited in the board's own press release, do not play the game and appear to have little inclination to do so.
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