Cricket is a gentleman’s game, so they say. It is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each. One team bats trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the runs scored by the batting team.
An average Kenyan adult will not understand the short description above. The game is mostly played by members of the Indian community who live in the upmarket suburbs west of Nairobi. But for many primary school children of Huruma in Eastlands, this is a sport that they understand very well thanks to one Niconory Abwamba.
25 year old Abwamba is a cricket pioneer in Eastlands. He founded a cricket academy in Huruma in February 2011. He has been volunteering to train children in the estate and also in schools such as Daima, Huruma and Ndururumo Primary Schools.
Nick, as he is best known, does all this out of the passion he has for cricket and gets nothing in return. “I am not paid a salary but am happy because am giving back to the society. Playing and coaching cricket has kept me from alcohol, drugs and other social evils here in the ghetto,” said Nick.
Nick coaches his Huruma Focus U-13 team of both boys and girls. He also currently plays for the Kenya Kongonis Cricket Club, who made it to the final of the 2011 East Africa Premier League. He aims at developing and nurturing talent from this low income area. “Huku ghetto kuna talent mob sana,” (There is a lot of talent here), he said.
When he started the project with four players only, Nick was using an arm-chair as stumps. He had one ball and one wooden bat. He later obtained more cricket equipment from the Development Manager at Railways Club after completing a coaching course.
He is an International Cricket Council certified coach. He has completed several training courses among them the Introductory Cricket Coaching course, ICC Level 1 Cricket Coaching course, Cricket Scorer Training Course and ICC Cricket Administrators Programme. He hopes to have completed the ICC Level 2 and 3 Coaching Course in the next one year.
Nick was introduced to cricket at Peter Kibukosya Primary School in Umoja at Standard 4. Upon completing his secondary education, he joined Stray Lions Cricket Club in 2006, where he played on and off until 2009. In early 2011, he was recruited by his current club Kongonis. He hopes to make the Kenya A team soon.
Abwamba says that he lacked funds to pursue further studies, a story told by many a young people in Eastlands. He had a dream of becoming a doctor but this went up in smoke. He has tried his luck during military recruitment but hasn’t made it due to corruption and competition. He is however satisfied with cricket although he encounters many challenges.
“Our biggest challenge is funding. We need more equipment and kits and even a training pitch. We don’t have a permanent base or office. The children play without any protective gear. This is very risky, most of them come from poor families and some of them are orphans. Sometimes they come for training even without eating,” said the coach. ” I would like to appeal to any sponsor to come on board so that this talent doesn’t waste away,” he added.
Nick’s goal is to spread to and develop the game in other parts of the expansive Eastlands area like Dandora, Kariobangi, Kayole and Mathare. He also plans to introduce cricket for the disabled, which is currently not available in Kenya.
“Even the disabled are talented and can play cricket. They can bowl, bat, catch and even run. In Uganda, disabled people play cricket. Am planning to introduce that here in Huruma. My dream is to make this place a small India, where everybody plays cricket even in the streets.”
Several of the girls he has trained have joined top cricket clubs like Athi Mambas, Chania Sharks, Yala Whales and Tana Dolphins. Four of them have been called up to the Kenya U-19 team that was scheduled to play away against Tanzania in a World Cup qualifier in December. One of these girls, Faith Mwende of Chania Sharks, won the Most Promising Player Award at the 2011 Twenty20 Obuya Tournament played at Nairobi Jeffreys Club.
Nick has been training the more than 60 children on the dusty estate grounds every weekend for over six months now and the numbers keep rising. Whenever he is not availabe, his brother Ishmael Abwamba, who is a trained cricket umpire, stands in for him. “I thank God for everything and I pray that one day, my dream will be fulfilled. I know God will help me even to get financing,” concluded the unemployed but determined Nick. With this initiative, Kenya’s cricketing future looks promising.
(This article by yours truly was first published in Issue 3 of Kenyanstar magazine)