Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bowling in the jungle, Maasai way

A batsman avoids a bouncer during a training session in Mukogodo, Laikipia North, recently. The Maasais, known the world over for their native style of dressing, have  accepted the game and formed several teams from local schools and community. Photos/ Correspondent

A batsman avoids a bouncer during a training session in Mukogodo, Laikipia North, recently. The Maasais, known the world over for their native style of dressing, have accepted the game and formed several teams from local schools and community. Photos/ Correspondent  

By ABDUL SIDI

A South African is on mission to extend the game of cricket to one of the most unexpected tribes in Kenya.

Qualified as a coach and recognised official scorers of the world famous game of cricket, Aliya Bauer has engaged the Maasais to play cricket in Mukogodo, an area of the Laikipia North.

The Maasais, known world over for their native style of dressing up and living among the world animals of East Africa, have already accepted the game with the formation of several teams from within the local schools and community.

“It is very encouraging for me as there are already well over 100 people who turn out for practices at venues around the area. This include children as well as older Morans who are very keen and enthusiastic about the game,’’ said Bauer, who has also played the game at the provincial level in South Africa.

Cricket was first introduced to local Maasai pastoralists in 2007. The community comprises 1,275 inhabitants.

Bauer said: “The children were first introduced to soft ball cricket before graduating to the hard ball version. They have shown phenomenal amount of potential and natural talent.’’

Maasais’ tall and athletic posture, and the fact that they learn how to hurl spears makes them particularly adjusted to pace bowling, according to the South African.

Cricket in Kenya is an elite sport that has predominantly been played by the Asian, and members of the Luo and Luyha communities as well as the Europeans. The game is mainly played in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu and none in the rural areas of Kenya.

Training facilities

Several teams have been formed as a result of Bauer’s initiation with II Polei Cricket Warriors and Dol Dol Boys Secondary School Team shinning at the top. They played their first match in March where Cricket Warriors beat the Dol Dol Boys by 125 runs.

Bauer cites several handicaps in her attempt to take the sport to wider circle with lack of proper playing and training facilities, uniforms, shoes and other equipments such as bats and balls.

Children and elder morans play the game bare feet while others wear traditional ‘firestone’ sandals made from used car tyres. She is pledging for help from donors who can help cricket grow in other areas of the II Polei and its surrounding villages.

“Without sufficient funds to cover transportation, accommodation and organizational costs, the development of the sport will remain stagnant,’’ added Bauer with a pinch of disappointment.

Bauer is the deputy Director of the Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project, having lived in Kenya for the past five years.

The Cricket programme was initially organised as a community outreach programme for the baboon scheme.

She talked exclusively to the Daily Nation during the Fina Bank Cross Country Challenge event where she was among several officials helping to run the event on behalf of the Nanyuki Rally Group.

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