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At 13, I played cricket for the national team

Readers Lounge By Gardy Chacha
Sarah Bakita training at Ruaraka Sports club in Nairobi (Jonah Onyango)

Growing up, Sarah Bakita was the kind of girl who didn’t pay much attention to sport, but as soon as she discovered cricket as a teenager, she fell in love with it. She shares how her passion and commitment for the game grew:

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Sarah Bakita is vice captain of the women’s national cricket team. But would you believe that through primary school, she was indifferent to sports?

Growing up in Eastlands area of Nairobi, Sarah wasn’t interested in anything that required running, pitching, throwing or jumping.

“I did not take part in football, volleyball, netball, tennis, swimming or even athletics,” she says.

She didn’t have a reason. “I had tried participating in different sports but I just never liked any of them.”

As she wove her way through mid-primary school, Sarah had all but given up on ever being engaged in sports. But then, out of nowhere, a cricket coach – tagging along a few other cricketers – visited Sarah’s school, Dr Livingstone Primary School.

“He was part of Cricket Kenya,” Sarah says of the gentleman. “They had come to introduce cricket to our school.”

The 2008 highest African scorer posing with her medals (Jonah Onyango)

Sarah was already resigned to the fact that she would never participate in sports so she paid little attention to ‘the new sport’.

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“A few boys and one girl got interested. They started practicing daily in school,” Sarah recalls. A few days later, the lone girl to join the cricket team was talking to Sarah and other girls.

“She told us the sport was interesting. She asked us to join her in the next practice session and witness it ourselves.”

Sarah attended the next practice session. That day, on that pitch, batting and throwing the ball, Sarah fell in love with the sport.

“It was love at first play,” she says. “And it was the first time I liked any sport, really.” She committed her time for practice and attended the sessions religiously.

In two years, she had changed from the girl who did not like sports to a good cricketer.

And in 2002, aged only 13, Sarah was named in the national team lineup to represent Kenya at the East Africa Regional tournament. She ended up being awarded “the youngest most promising cricket player in East Africa” at the tournament.

Now aged 31, Sarah has played cricket for two-thirds of her life – majority of it professionally. To date, Sarah can’t exactly explain her disdain for sports like football and athletics. All she knows is that she loves cricket.

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The sport, she says, is a physical and a mental game. “Eleven players play on either side. At any given moment there is only one team with all the eleven players in the pitch. That is the bowling or the fielding team. The other team has two players, the batters.

The aim of the batter is to hit the ball and score runs by running to each other’s end of the playing area, the crease,” she explains.

The bowler’s job is to throw the ball clinically at the batter whose job is to hit the ball as far as she can. “The bowler’s teammates run to catch the ball before it goes over the boundary line,” she says.

 

According to Sarah, the cricket’s scoring system is based on wickets and runs, and is complicated to those who don’t know “but it is enjoyable.”

For Sarah, cricket has not only kept her physically fit but also eased off stresses of life. It has been her preferred avenue to blow off steam. Through cricket, she got sponsorship in high school. “My mother did not have to pay school fees in high school,” she says.

The sport has also allowed her to travel. She has played for cricket clubs in Kenya and Uganda and her last national assignment was in December 2019 in Botswana.

Cricket, she says, requires one to be passionate and committed. “Passion is important because if you do not have the drive you won’t manage to attend training sessions and therefore you can’t become a good player,” she says.

A good cricket player, she adds, ought to be physically fit. They should be able to bowl and to bat; to catch and to run. “It really needs all round physical fitness and strength,” she says.

Sarah also works for a non-governmental body – coaching cricket to school pupils.

“The project is aimed at instilling character through the discipline involved in playing cricket,” she says. She carries out her coaching work in five schools across Nairobi.

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