Cricket Kenya elections will offer a fresh start to a more chaotic phase

Chairperson Cricket Kenya Normalization Committee Rtd Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch, Chairperson Independent Elections Panel Dr Ken Wyne Mutuma (centre) and Dr Walter Ongeti committee member during media update on the elections for Cricket Kenya at The Nyayo National Stadium on Monday, Jan 31, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Most valuable readers, I hope you have been well for the duration that this column was on a break. It has been a long four weeks of well-deserved rest but we are now back to cutting through the noise of political rhetoric in this silly season of insulting the sensibilities of vulnerable Kenyans.

Right off the bat, elections to pick Cricket Kenya officials are slated for Saturday, February 26, and that should offer a fresh start to a sport that has almost been forgotten — only that it will not.

To say that Kenyan cricket is dead would not be far from the truth, considering that Kenya does not play in the big league and struggles against its neighbours who once looked up to it. It can be said that the biggest impediment in Kenyan cricket has been stakeholders living in the past, but that would be half the story.

Nothing wrong with talking about past wins, after all, you cannot change history, but trying to relive it in the fast-changing sporting world of cricket is the laziest way of trying to rebuild. One question people ask is what happened to Kenyan cricket. There are so many answers, but the simplest is that it died. It was killed. Smothered by unsportsmanlike conduct bordering on sabotage, and to a great extent, unbridled greed.

Stakeholders who did not hold official positions thought that the cricket cake was so big yet they were not getting even crumbs. This perception led to distrust since some members of the cricketing community felt they were being denied a seat on the gravy train.

The distrust not only affected the operations in the boardroom but relations in the dressing room suffered too. Factions emerged within the cricketing community of fans, active and former players and officials and proxy wars were so vicious that sponsors kept off, and coaches, mostly foreigners, were frustrated, and they left, with some citing security of their families.

Cronyism, nepotism and familial ties replaced sportsmanship and professionalism and even experienced foreign administrators hired to help Kenya salvage the little cricketing fortunes it had, became victims of the proxy wars. The cake and the gravy train could have been there, but those who felt that they were being denied a slice or a seat could neither bake nor mix the right condiments to make the gravy.

It has been all noise — and their claim to fame was that they are former players, which is undeniable because they did Kenya proud, and their views and feelings should have been considered. But what was the quality of the views and through what channels were they airing them?

Office bearers have never been innocent either. They operate under a shroud of secrecy and run the sport like personal outfits. Their lack of openness and failure to open proper communication channels not only blocks those with concerns from approaching them, but fuels rumour-mongering.

Thus, issues are not discussed in proper forums and reach their ears as gossip, which they readily dismiss. Cricket is a gentleman’s game, an elite sport, but beneath the Kenyan crease, there is so much muck that dogs growth of Kenyan cricket which is rotten to the core and stinks to high heavens.

Claims of sexual harassment of younger female cricketers, by senior women players, are talked about in hushed tones, not aired through the right channels to be investigated — then dismissed as gossip even as parents complain.

Kenya’s cricketing community has people who are passionate about the sport and want it revived, but they are drowned out by others who do not see the bigger picture of rebuilding the sport and only have selfish interests. They see everyone sent to rescue the sport as an enemy, and have a sense of entitlement, but have never made any strides in running the sport.

Their biggest enemy for almost a year now is the Cricket Normalisation Committee, appointed by the Sports Ministry, and which birthed the Independent Electoral Panel, the body meant to oversee the Saturday elections. The point of contention is that the committee, which has delivered a new constitution that was ratified by the same stakeholders, does not have former cricketers.

While the elections should help in the revival of cricket, some members of the cricketing community are engaging in skullduggery to help them in the polls. Probably both normalisation committee and electoral panel know about that and have decided to ignore or are totally at sea because they are outsiders, but they must solve it.

As usual, all that is being discussed in unofficial circles, and those behind the underhand deals are known within the community but people love speaking out after the fact.

Thus, it might not be right to write that next Saturday’s elections are meaningless, but they will offer a fresh start — to a more chaotic phase in Kenyan cricket.  

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