The Kobus Olivier Files


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.

Former players
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 ICC

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.


Summary
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.

Conclusion

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.

Another shot at Redemption?

A draft of a new constitution for Cricket Kenya has been circulated on social media. Is this a fresh start for the game?


It has been more than a minute since this blog has been active. These days of social (or physical distancing) seem like as good a time as any to get the blog up out of long term hibernation.

Anyway on to the subject of today’s post. Cricket Kenya, or rather the interim committee that has been running the shell of what is left of Cricket Kenya, recently published a daft constitution meant to provide a way forward for the game. The game in Kenya has been in a terrible mess after the implosion of the last executive board.

The draft is meant to provide a foundation upon which the game of cricket should be governed, in line with the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and the Sports Act 2013. After the acrimony of the demise of the last Cricket Kenya executive committee, the draft is also meant to act as a basis for the establishment of a new, more accountable board.

The most anticipated parts of the draft no doubt are the provisions for the top management and how they are chosen. The publicized draft provides for an Executive board with the top leadership (Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Secretary General )are elected by delegates from ‘County Cricket Associations’ and a number of Directors such as the Development Director, a Director of Women’s Cricket (that must be a woman), an additional two members who will be assigned mandates after they are elected to the board, and a sort of gender balance executive because…you know gender balance.

As for how this board is chosen the delegates that elect the board are drawn from the ‘County Cricket Associations’ each with a limit of 5 delegates, by virtue of them being the ‘full members of Cricket Kenya,’ and allotted based on the basis of one delegate per three registered cricket clubs. Though not a departure from the previous system, this does seem to be an obvious effort to prevent Nairobi County, which presently has the vast majority of cricket clubs and schools in Kenya, excess influence over the national board.

Whether or not this will be the final form remains to be seen, as member of the public has until Wednesday 29th April to suggest changes to the draft, whose final form is scheduled for adoption by the end of May. After this, there will be elections to select a new Executive Board.

Change Cometh, and Cricket Kenya must deal with it


Cricket Kenya has a new chairperson. This blogger understands that Jackie Jan Mohammed has very recently stepped down from the position of Chairperson of Cricket Kenya, citing personal reasons, and her deputy chairperson, one Mr. Anil Patel has taken over.

To the best of my knowledge she was the only woman to have ever headed a national sports body in Kenyan history, and will likely the only one who may have the privilege and responsibility to do so for the foreseeable future.

Jackie Janmohammed (Source: imgci.com)

It would not be fair to pass judgment on Jackie’s tenure at the head of Cricket Kenya without first coming to grips with the situation the organization was in leading up to her tenure. Her reign began as part of a settlement to put a stop to a bunch of litigation that had dragged the process of replacing Samir Inamdar, her predecessor, out for two years.

Her predecessor had himself been come to be in charge of Cricket Kenya at the tail end of even more litigation, through which the old Kenya Cricket Association was dissolved and replaced by Cricket Kenya.
In between there were, a whole bunch of other intrigues that saw Kenya’s senior players on strike on several occasions, the site for a proposed national academy repossessed and turned into part of a super highway, and pretty much all structure in the game slip away
In that context her time could therefore be seen as the facing the consequences for the past decade’s stagnation.

On the field Kenya’s men’s national team failed to qualify for the 50 over World Cup for the first time since 1992, were relegated out of Division 1 of the World Cricket League, and lost the One Day International Status, upon which a lot of the support that Cricket in Kenya was getting from the International Cricket Council was being channeled.

However, on the domestic, though she did preside over the settling in and expansion of The East Africa Premier League and Cup, to the extent that the T20 competition was even able to attract some serious international level talent in its most recent edition.

Both tournaments have been in a way ‘cursed’ by their own success, as the extra revenues generated seem to have just become another avenue for the same old back door power games, and intrigue rather than a vehicle for the overall growth of the game.

Her successor, Mr. Anil Patel, has a very full plate once he gets into the swing of things. The last time I checked, Cricket Kenya did not have a Chief Executive Officer, the East Africa Leagues season is around the corner, and the board is certainly looking at a cut in funding from the ICC, as well as a truncated schedule of fixtures (from the ICC’s programs for associates) to keep the national teams at all levels active.

So in the short term those will be the challenges.
The national team have February’s World Cricket league Division II to begin their rehabilitation, and earn the right to be in the next edition of the Intercontinental Cup.

The women’s and youth national teams do not even have the certainty of that, until the full implications of the cuts by the ICC to regional youth and women’s cricket become fully known, at least.
In the medium to long term there is continuing to build trust among the corporates and institutions that have invested in Kenyan cricket so far. There is the need to work out how to get additional resources from wherever and whomever they can get onto the band wagon of making Kenyan cricket grow.

And of course, the resident pachyderm in the building called Kenya’s tiny player base. I have called for this many time before and will call for it again. Cricket Kenya needs to get a formula to get cricket into public schools and institutions in a sustainable way. We are talking about getting a portion of the ~97% of school going children countrywide.

That is a story for another day.  For now, its to wish Mr Patel, and the remnant of the Cricket Kenya board installed in 2012, all the best as they steer the game forwards.

The #ICC Kenya should be pulling out of


Apparently when the team Kenya national team landed in India for the last 50 Over World Cup in 2011 they were swamped by local journalists who had mistaken a parliamentary motion to withdraw from the Rome statue and thus the International Criminal Court as a move to pull Kenya out of the International Cricket Council. As it was that was not the case and to date this blogger is not aware of any serious move to actually withdraw from the International Cricket Council (yes, Mr. Indian sports writer, the motion passed by parliament   a few months ago is about the same ICC from before not the cricket one)

Provocative title aside this post is about what this blogger feels is the way shifting tectonics in the priorities of the ICC plus the outmoded way it decides things means there is probably no reasonable expectation for country like Kenya to take the game of cricket to its maximum potential within the structures of the present ICC. Why am I saying this? The immediate reason is the decision to re-structure the 2014 T20 World Cup  to make it so the associates, who have already had to deal with numerous qualifying rounds to qualify for the tournament, have to go through yet another layer of qualifying within the tournament, to get to play with the permanent members. The full members qualify essentially are there because they are full members and full members are just entitled to everything (except Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. They are more semi than full members these days).

The in depth reasons is this blogger is convinced that given the kinds of decisions that the ICC has made, and continues to make over its associates and affiliates indicate that there is glass ceiling that is getting thicker and thicker between them and the full members. I believe that the root of this trend is sometime in the 1990s, when an influx of TV money from ODIs, and the structure of decision making meant that, giving out test status went from being rewarding an apprentice for hanging around and learning the ropes, to essentially thinner slices of money pie all around. Consider that to this blogger’s knowledge there is no set criteria for graduating from associate status to full membership, it is ultimately down to ¾ of sitting members welcoming you into the club.

The principal reason for the title of this blog’s title is the continued refusal of the ICC to reform to reflect the new paradigm it exists in fact I do not think it can if it wanted to. Consider that in 2011 the International Cricket Council ordered an independent governance review (called the Woolf Report  partly in the outrage against a botched attempt to straight throw associates out the World Cups outright, to look at ways of modernizing itself and keep the game relevant. To put it briefly, some of the big nations had one look at the recommendations probably went blue in the face and that is the last that has been heard about that pesky document. Or at least the radical parts of it

I know just now a big chunk of Cricket Kenya’s cricketing programs are funded by ICC grants and subsidies but surely when it is patently clear that the ICC sees no future in taking the game in any non-full member, to real maturity, heck they might secretly be trying shed ‘dead weight’ for all we know, shouldn’t Cricket Kenya consider learning to fish (and maybe get lucky and land a Nile perch) rather than waiting on the fisherman that only feels they are worth an occasional omena

New Man in Charge


Following Monday’s reshuffle, Dr. Paul Nyongesa Otuoma is Kenya’s new Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs. He comes in from the Ministry of Fisheries Development. His big achievement there is being the only Minister in the Grand Coalition who’s line Ministry completed its Economic stimulus Programme in time. He has served as MP for Funyula. the man is also a member of Bunge FC, so he’s got to be physically fit.

He takes over from Proffessor Helen Sambili, whose term was stained by wrangles with just about everybofy there was that could possibly be wrangled with. Top of the agenda for Otuoma will be the long running feud in football between the FIFA recognized Football Kenya Limited, and the GOK registered Kenya Football Federation. Despite a ruling in favour of FKL by the Court of Arbitration for Sports, there has been no movement on the part of the warring boards to patch up and move the game forward. Though not sanctioned to actually do anything, perhaps he could still facillitate a xclimb down of the KFF part so as to prevent the current stalemate becoming permanent



As a graduate of Eastleigh High School this blogger hopes that his tenure may lead to greater rapport between Cricket Kenya and the gorvernment.