Monday, April 17, 2006
Uganda, Tanzania and Namibia have all won awards for cricket development as the judges announced the global winners of the ICC Development Program Annual Awards 2005. Kenya did not feature in any of the categories. Namibia won the UNAIDS Award for their work with the Christina Swart-Opperman - AIDS Orphan Trust. Tanzania won the category for Best Women's Cricket Initiative. It was Uganda however who can feel the most proud as they took the award for the Best Overall Cricket Development Program. All credit to our African brothers for their efforts, but Kenya must make sure that we are featured in a major way by the time the 2006 Awards come around.
As Cricket Kenya only took over towards the end of last year, and as they have had a huge mess to sort out, it was not really surprising that Kenya was eclipsed by its less highly ranked neighbours. This year is a completely different story. Kenya's slate has been wiped clean, and it is now time for our administrators to show why they were elected. Part of the secret of Uganda's success was in tripling the number of schools playing the game. Likewise Papua New Guinea, the winner of the Best Junior Cricket Initiative who attracted the involvement of over 22 schools and also raised over US$15,000 in sponsorship. This is the level that Kenya must concentrate on to build a solid cricket playing future. The efforts of Uganda and PNG are fantastic, but Kenya needs to look on their achievements not as the benchmark of success, but as half-way goals.
We already have a network of schools that are primed to be a nursery for future international players. Some are schools introduced to the game under the KCA, who then let the good start slip. There are a few private schools with full facilities such as nets and slip machines. Most are poor schools with hardly anything at all in the way of equipment. What Cricket Kenya has to do is bring these schools under one central program, and get them working together towards a common cause. Those schools that have the facilities and coaches need to be convinced to share their bounty with other schools in their area that do not have the same benefits. There must also be a tangible goal for the youngsters to aspire towards. With the advancements that Uganda and Tanzania are making, we have already seen a regional competition for the youth sides. This needs to be made a regular feature of the calendar, but there is also potential for touring sides to be put together to incorporate the best youngsters and give them greater exposure. School age tours need to be arranged not only to our immediate neighbours but also other African nations such as South Africa and Namibia, possibly even Europe.
Kenya needs to cultivate an interest in cricket amoung our youth and through them, the rest of the public. Starting this could be as simple as retired national players doing tours of schools and colleges to explain and teach the game. A method that has worked overseas is to introduce gate prizes at domestic games such as a cash prize for a spectator who catches a six. Schools could be encouraged to bring children to watch matches through free entry, art/literary competitions based on participants watching a cricket match or coaching clinics between innings.
Growing the game will almost certainly mean getting support from the print, tv and radio media. It may even have to include paid adverts in some of these if they will not come on board voluntarily. Almost certainly, it will need sponsorship from companies within Kenya, and possibly even abroad. Good news for Cricket Kenya is that at the moment, there is not a lot of competition in the way of well organised sport for the public to watch. Even soccer, often regarded as the main spectator sport in Kenya often plays to empty stands. Kenya's economy is weak, but I believe it is still strong enough to build a solid spectator base if people are given their money's worth. Publicise the events, educate the public while treating them with the respect they are due, and they will respond by filling seats. It is not going to happen overnight, but with well publicised matches and development programs, it is certainly possible. There are 9 awards given out for the ICC to reward development. There is no reason why Kenya cannot take home at least one of these next time around, preferably relieving our Ugandan neighbours of the main title.
Posted by Chemosit at 6:33 pm