Africa holds key to crickets future

Neil Manthorp – 29/04/2002

Like it or not cricket remains something of an eccentric oddity in the eyes of most of the worlds nations.

In order for the game to become ‘global’ and therefore survive, the fearless pioneers who have battled so hard for crickets recognition are going to have concentrate on some unusual areas.

Followers of such events as the under-15 World Cup, under-19 World Cup and ICC Trophy will already have become used to the odd strange name popping up in the results columns – Fiji and Tibet come readily to mind.

But while Asia and the far east undoubtedly provide fertile ground for expansion, the mass future of the sport undoubtedly lies on the African continent. And the man that has done more to lay the foundations of that future may never receive the recognition he deserves.

South Africa’s Hoosain Ayob is the ICC Development Manager for Africa and he was in Namibia recently for the six-nation tournament involving Canada, Holland, Kenya, Zimbabwe ‘A’, Sri Lanka ‘A’ and the host nation.

While certain dignitaries from the ‘established’ cricket playing world strolled between Windhoek’s three main grounds making condescending proclamations about how “good” it was for Africa to be staging such an event, Ayob could be forgiven for shaking his head in dismay.

“I can’t even stay here for the whole tournament, there’s too much else going on,” Ayob explained. “I have to be in Botswana for a five-nation, under-15 tournament involving Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia.

“Then straight after that we have a senior international quadrangular in Lagos – the West Africa championship – between Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. Sierra Leone have won it for the last two years,” Ayob explained.

Nigeria, incidentally, has applied to the ICC for Associate Membership and is almost certain to be granted it within six months. “They have a population od 120 million and cricket is tremendously popular,” Ayob enthused.

If that doesn’t sound as though Ayob has enough on his plate, try this: “In the last six to 12 months I have received requests for development assistance from Ethiopia, Libya, Egypt, Rwanda, Senegal, Mali and Gabon.

The game of cricket is shedding its colonial past on this continent.”

It is indeed. And rarely can there have been a more exciting prospect for the future of the game.

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