The Tanzania Cricket association is currently part of the East and Central Africa Conference. This conference is an Associate Member of the ICC. It is comprised of Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia and, along with the West Africa Confederation, holds a unique place in the ICC membership structure.
These conferences were originally formed to aid the cricket development process in Africa. The rationale was that none of the countries was individually strong enough to be an Associate Member but by grouping them together regionally they would have sufficient combined strength and all countries would be included in the development process.
East Africa originally included just Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. However over the years Zambia and Malawi have been added and the conference changed to East and Central Africa. At the same time Kenya and Uganda have applied to be admitted as Associate Members in their own right and have left the conference.
Tanzania has now applied to join their East Africa brothers and move out on their own as an Associate Member. The first step in this process is an official inspection by the ICC. On March 10,11 and 12th this inspection was carried out by Andrew Eade, ICC Development Manager and Jimmy Rayani, Associate Member delegate to the ICC Executive Board.
A full report from this inspection, together with recommendations, will be presented to the ICC Annual Conference in June. One of the key features examined is the junior development program in the country and the following story which emerged during the inspection highlights the difficulties faced in many developing countries and the ingenuity used to overcome them.
In Tanzania there is an annual Primary School Festival called the Umitashunta Games. In June 2000 it was held in Morogoro and with 22 regions represented there were over 4000 children and teachers present. A number of major sports (football, volleyball, netball, athletics) are featured annually but cricket has never been included. This year the Tanzania Cricket Association (TCA) decided to try and get mini cricket included in an attempt to spread it into the regions.
A delegation approached the organisers in Dar Es Salaam but were told there was no room. They decided to go anyway and see what they could do so a party of 14, including the TCA Chairman and Secretary, set out for Morogoro. When they got there they were told they couldn't put on their demonstration in the stadium in front of the large crowd.
Undeterred they cleared some scrub from an area beside the stadium and started to put on a demonstration. One of the local teaching students was interested and offered to help by getting other local teachers. They hired a bike for him and overnight he rode around the region to round up some more teachers. The next day they performed a clinic for about 15 teachers and as they did so many of the crowd from the stadium came outside to see what was going on with this strange game. At one stage a crowd of over 200 was watching.
As a result mini cricket is now established in Morogoro with about 10 primary schools playing regularly. It is also played in Arusha, Tanga, Iringa and even the distant region of Mwanza is keen to start in their schools.
Cricket in Africa was traditionally a sport played by the Asian population. But initiatives like this are now making real progress in taking the game to the African people and the enthusiasm of the young children is amazing to see. Kenya has already established itself as a force in world cricket and with initiatives like this underway in Tanzania and Uganda it may not be long before the rest of East Africa joins their big brothers.