The Kenya national women’s cricket team must still be celebrating and justifiably so.
The girls, who had not seen any piece of action for literally two years thanks to largely the unwelcome Covid-19 pandemic and partly to the in-fighting at Cricket Kenya (CK), dared to dream differently enroute to scripting a fairytale story at the seventh edition of the Kwibuka Women’s Twenty20 International Tournament at Gahanga Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda.
It was the fourth title for the championship’s record winners with their closest rivals Uganda with just two titles to their credit.
Tanzania, winners of the 2019 edition of the annual showpiece played in memory of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, are the other side with their name engraved on the diadem.
But this edition played in a bio-bubble security environment and with the world, more so the African continent, experiencing a more turbulent second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, was every inch going to be special.
As Uganda pulled out of the event at the 11th hour after at least 10 PCR Covid-19 tests returned positive in their 21-man contingent for the just concluded tournament hours before thy flew out of Entebbe, Kenya made a late entry.
Three debutants, too, were in the fray at the event including pre-tournament favourites Namibia, Botswana, Nigeria and hosts Rwanda.
Kenya would go on to pull off a heist and win the championship after being put together haphazardly in bio-bubble camp at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani Stadium alongside the Kenya Olympics preparation unit.
While in Kigali, Team Kenya were supported by droves of people including many Rwandan natives in the final against much-fancied Namibia that they notched by 7 wickets with 11 overs (55 balls to spare) as they chased down the paltry set target of 70 runs.
It was easy to think Kenya was the home team. They grew into the tournament, played a fearless brand of exciting cricket and entertained the fans with well-choreographed dance warm-down routines at the end of their epic semifinal and final duels.
Applause for government
“We are grateful for having received an invite from Rwanda to participate in the tournament because two weeks to the event we knew we wouldn’t make it because of the situation back home in Kenya,” said Kenya captain Margaret Banja Ngoche.
“It took the intervention of the Normalization Committee set-up by the government to put up things together quickly and ensure we played the game we love so much. We were dressed from head to toe and catered for with everything by the government. It is the reason we dedicate our trophy to the Kenya Government and more especially to the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture Amb. Dr. Amina Mohamed.”
CS Amina Mohamed, appointed to the role by President Uhuru Kenyatta in March 2019, has been at the forefront of re-organising the structures in Cricket Kenya and putting right the wrongs done by the previous administrators.
She put in place an all-energetic Cricket Normalization Committee (CNC) that has been hands on.
Kenya were visibly the envy of many teams with a strong contingent of 17 players and 11 officials led by Eng. Morris Aluanga, former basketball international and member of the Cricket Normalization Committee as the Head of Delegation while in Kigali.
Kenyan contingents to previous tournaments have always been not more than 18-20 people.
While in Rwanda, the Acting High Commissioner of Kenya Philip Githiora and the chairman of Kenyans living in Rwanda Wycliffe Aganda rallied their troops to offer more support to the team as well as some perks.
Painting Kigali red
After winning the final, Githiora and Aganda facilitated the team an open-bus tour of Kigali City with the team visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and newly-built Kigali Arena that hosted the inaugural Basketball Africa League amongst other sight-seeing sceneries.
The team was later hosted to the best Kenyan restaurant in Kigali – Roasters – where they dug in and enjoyed a sumptuous meal before flying out of Rwanda on June 13.
On arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya were welcomed home by the Deputy Sports Commissioner, State Department of Sports Jaxon Indakwa, who delivered a message that CS Mohamed would host the team and congratulate them further.
Renowned cricket fanatic Kalpesh Solanki also offered a financial reward to the team at the airport.
Kenya women’s cricket team will be hoping to grow from strength to strength after this latest gesture from all the stakeholders with the Victoria Series in Kampala and ICC Africa T20 Women’s World Cup Qualifier scheduled for August and September respectively on the menu.
Kenya Women Contingent at Kwibuka
Players: Margaret Banja Ngoche (c), Sarah Bhakita Wetoto (vice-captain), Queentor Abel, Josephine Abwom, Veronicah Abuga, Ruth Ambiyo Achando, Lavendah Alivista Idambo, Sharon Juma, Brenda Mogusu, Monicah Ndhambi, Daisy Wairimu Njoroge, Melvin Khagoiza Idambo, Fiavia Odhiambo, Marion Okira, Jane Achieng Otieno, Esther Wachira Wangari, Edith Waithaka
Technical Team: Lameck Onyango (Head Coach), Franco Otieno Ndege (Assistant Coach), Joseph Kamagu (S&C Coach/Trainer), Moses Ndungu (Physiotherapist), Peter Ongondo (Consultant), Fatuma Dafala (Team Manager)
Government officials: Rizpha Mukonyo (Legal), Benjamin Wachira (Communication – Ministry of Sports CSs Office), Elizabeth Wamalwa (Commissioner of Sports Office), Adan Sugow (SASDF – Sports Fund), Eng Morris Aluanga (Cricket Normalization Committee)