In the 1990s, the Kanbis ‘A’ cricket club became famous for spoiling the party for the four dominating teams of the time, Swamibapa, Nairobi Gymkhana, Nairobi Jaffreys and Aga Khan Sports Club.
They would cause upsets by defeating one or two potential league winners and spoil their chances of topping the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association division one league table.
This despite the fact that Kanbis ‘A’ were not serious contenders themselves.
However, over time the club banked on youngsters to rise to the top. Most of the youngsters came through a development programme initiated by Cricket Kenya’s predecessors, the Kenya Cricket Association, with the support of the International Cricket Council’s development manager for Africa, Hoosain Ayob of South Africa.
The former CK chief executive officer, Tom Tikolo, was the ICC development officer for East Africa, while the CK treasurer, Nasoor Varjee, was Kenya’s development director.
Kanbis ‘A’ skipper, Rajesh Bhudia, and wicket-keeper, Mansukh Jesani, were some of the beneficiaries of the programme. They took part in the secondary schools league, which was very competitive.
Shamji Patel, a former club official who is also the Cricket Kenya vice-chairman, said the club succeeded by establishing strong managerial structures to bring out the best in players.
He said: “We have encouraged our boys to take up the game seriously and by so doing have been able to produce a pool of good players.”
Patel said that the club has made arrangements with Bhavsinhn Cricket Academy of Bhavnagar, Gujarat State, which takes up their players for specialised training.
“We send three to four boys to India annually in December when schools a closed. Virtually all our players in the ‘A’ team have gone through it, some of them more than once. We prefer sending youngsters to the academy because, as the saying goes, you cannot teach old dogs new tricks.”
The investments by Kanbis management on the boys is now paying dividends. Their ‘A’ team has become a dominant force in the local cricket scene.
They have won the Nairobi Province Cricket Association League five times, and were unbeaten last season.
Kanbis ‘A’ also clinched the NPCA Twenty20 super league trophy when they beat Shree Cutchi Leva Youth League by 40 runs at the Nairobi Gymkhana on February 6.
At the same time, Kanbis ‘B’ also lost to Kongonis in the division one final.
Even though Kanbis ‘A’ have the best fielding side in the country and their players are known for possessing the killer instinct, they hardly catch the eye of selectors whenever the national team is selected. Two of Kanbis’ players in the World Cup-bound Kenya team, Rakep Patel and Elijah Otieno, were already in Kenya team by the time they joined Kanbis.
The club’s fans always turn up in large numbers whenever the team is playing. The days when the game would draw big crowds when the top four teams were at their best are long gone.
Most matches nowadays are watched by players and club officials with a handful of fans, mainly made up of friends and relatives.
While the majority of the clubs in the country also have failed to attract sponsorship, thing are different for Kanbis. They have signed a three-year sponsorship contract with Crown Paints. Kanbis may not have a posh club house, as Eastleigh Secondary School is their home ground, but the team is one of the best managed sides in the country.
Not always smooth
The way to the top for Kanbis was not always smooth and in the 1990s when the side was still struggling to remain in the top ten in NPCA league division one, the team relied heavily on professional players from the sub-continent.
Martin Jacobs from the State of Baroda was their most popular professional He had a near fanatical following as his fans stopped watching their games and moved to other venues whenever he was dismissed. The fans were also very protective of him and umpires easily found themselves in trouble from fans whenever gave Jacobs out on doubtful decisions.
As a team, Kanbis has its own characteristics as most of the players are in construction business. Although 98 per cent of the fans are descendants of India, they have some Kiswahili choice words they use to sledge opposing players who react angrily and lose concentration and their wickets