Beyond the Test World
Africa at the crossroads
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
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?
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa