Recently, an audio interview with short lived Cricket Kenya CEO, Kobus Olivier. surfaced in a Whatsapp group in which I am a member. The clip appears to have come from an extensive podcast interview called the ‘Cricket Nomad‘ which Mr. Olivier talks about his life as a cricket nomad’.
The twelve minute clip sheds light on a period where the decline of the game in Kenya, for lack of a better description, really came out in the open. In this post I will address some of the themes that struck me about what Mr Olivier’s Kenya experience.
Kobus Olivier, at his desk when working for Cricket Kenya (Source: Cricket Kenya)
The National team
He describes a generation of players coming to the end of it’s life span without discernible replacements coming through the system.
He points out that at the qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup, Kenya had the oldest squad players, and that aside from Irfan Karim, whom he holds in quiet high regard there isn’t much ‘seasoning’ among the younger players coming through at that time
The board itself
In the audio, he paints a picture of a weak board, dominated by the chairperson, Mrs. Janmohamed, fixated only on the prospect of failure at the upcoming 2015 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers. No interest in his development plans, no development plans of their own, and an apparent fear of anyone taking initiative lest they offend the chairperson.
In this clip he reveals that ultimately, his work with Cricket Kenya came to an end after it turned out that the board had failed to secure a proper work permit for him, and that he was working illegally.
In his brief stint as Cricket Kenya CEO, Mr. Olivier developed quite a fond opinion of the former national team players that he engaged with. In particular he expresses alot of praise for former Kenya Cricket and Davis Cup tennis captain Aasif Karim.
He describes Mr. Karim as a man who knows the game inside out, anda massive potential asset to the game in Kenya. Also highlighted for praise are former captains Morris Odumbe, and Steve Tikolo, and former pace man (an current Botswana coach) Joseph Angara.
The International Cricket Council, through the Africa Cricket Association, are presented as being reluctant to intervene in the workings of a democratically elected board, even as their officers on the ground commiserate with Mr. Olivier’s struggles
The Future of Cricket in Kenya
Mr. Olivier draws parralels with the situation in South Africa, where Cricket South Africa has put legendary players such as Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher in charge of the national team. He believes that the same should apply to Kenya. He argues that the exposure an Aasif Karim or a Morris Odumbe brings to the table from their own careers cannot be gotten by any other means.
Mr Olivier served as Cricket Kenya in the year 2014, at a time when Mrs. Jackie Janmohamed, was coming to the end of her first term as Cricket Kenya Chief Executive. It was also during this time that Kenya missed their first World Cup in close to 20 years.
Since then, Mrs Janmohamed, has been re-elected and resigned twice as the head of Cricket Kenya, and now heads up a hold over committee as well as chairing the Africa Cricket Association.The process of re-writing Cricket Kenya’s Constitution continues to stutter through acrimony and allegations of vested interests. Nairobi’s clubs no longer organise their leagues through the Nairobi County Cricket Association among other problems.
In light of Mr. Olivier’s assertions, it seems that there is little hope in expecting the current status quo to resolve the impasse Cricket Kenya is in on their own. It seems that unless some radical intervention (possibly on the level of India’s Supreme Court dissolving India’s BCCI and appointing neutral administrators) takes place, Kenyan cricket is doomed to a cycle of half baked initiatives, torpedoed by vested interests who in turn come in with half baked initiatives that get the game nowhere.