From slums to nets: Kenyan cricket’s comeback pitch
The slum-dwelling schoolboys batting in the nets in Nairobi are at the heart of an effort to rescue Kenyan cricket from a seemingly endless slump, dogged by poor performances, governance issues and political wrangles.
After the heroics in South Africa in 2003, when Kenya became the first non-Test nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, the country’s cricket went into free fall, with little sign of recovery.
But three brothers all former international cricketers are mounting a fightback by ploughing their earnings into a training academy aimed at rebuilding the sport in Kenya from the ground up.
Founded by ex-Kenyan opener Kennedy Otieno and his brothers David and Collins Obuya in 2006, the Obuya Cricket Academy (OCA) offers training to youngsters from low-income neighbourhoods.
It hopes to discover the next Steve Tikolo, the former captan and batting star of 2003, and revive their national team’s flagging fortunes.
“Youth development is at the heart of cricket, and our focus was to open the doors for underprivileged children... to play the game to the highest level and keep hope alive,” said David Obuya, an ex-Kenya wicketkeeper.
“The response has been tremendous,” said Obuya, who is Cricket Kenya’s head coach, with dozens of students aged between five and 19 years old training daily at the academy located in Nairobi’s upmarket Lavington suburb.
Many parents were happy to sign their children up for lessons, especially when the academy offered to pay their school fees and provide free lunches.
Despite financial constraints, OCA has slowly grown, fielding a team in the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) Super League since 2019.
The academy has also served as a breeding ground for recruitment by other clubs. -AFP