Time for a venue change?

Nairobi Gymkhana's days could be numbered

Cricinfo staff

February 3, 2009

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A dank scene at the Nairobi Gymkhana during last October's ODI tri-series. Four matches at the venue were washed out and there was considerable criticism of the drainage © Cricinfo
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Nairobi Gymkhana's future as Kenya's premier international venue could be under threat.

The ground hosted the 2000 Champions Trophy and was given a substantial million-dollar refurbishment by the ICC to help prepare, but since then there has been little investment and the facilities have grown increasingly shabby.

Nairobi Gymkhana is not controlled by Cricket Kenya but, like many clubs in the country, is privately owned and run. However, the club has been bedeviled by internal squabbling and is in a poor state. Its cricket and hockey sides, which used to form its backbone, have fallen on hard times and whereas on a weekend hundreds of locals used the facilities, it is now almost deserted.

One club member said that between major tournaments the facilities were allowed to go to seed, and work on the pitches and outfield was only stepped up ahead of important games. Another said the problems there resulted from years of infighting within the club's administration which had left it on the verge of collapse.

Cricket Kenya has to pay to use the ground, and given that attendances for almost all matches can be counted in the hundreds rather than the thousands, there is talk that the board would be better off investing in developing one of the other venues rather than continuing to pour cash into the Gymkhana. Nairobi now has two other ICC-approved international venues, and there is an excellent ground at Mombasa which last week hosted two ODIs against Zimbabwe.

Board officials are also reported to be very unhappy at having no say over many aspects of matches staged at the Gymkhana. Last October's ODI tri-series was ruined by heavy rain, and privately there was scathing criticism of what one official described as "hopelessly inadequate drainage" on the outfield.

There appears to be little to gain from remaining at the ground but any decision is likely to be delayed until after the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in April. If Kenya qualify for the 2011 tournament and retain their ODI status then there will be a sharp increase in central funding and commercial opportunities. That could be the catalyst for CK to start looking for an alternative home for the national team.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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