A club which keeps Kenyan cricket alive

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 07, 2011 15:00 hrs

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Clad in bright green, Kenya's World Cup jersey, the six-foot, burly Lakhdeep Babra stands out in the crowd at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium. The Anglo-Indian, a proud member of the African country's oldest Kongonis Cricket Club, insists that cricket will look up there again.

Babra, who was here with his two children and another club member Vip Kumar to watch the Kenyans play Canada, has been passionately involved with cricket in the country through Kongonis, which was formed at the turn of century in 1900.

In fact, four players of the Kenyan squad -- Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, Elijah Otieno and Shem Ngochme -- and manager Julian Ince play for Kongonis.

'All of them were at my place for dinner Sunday and we discussed cricket. They enjoyed the intensity with which cricket is being played in Kenya,' Babra told IANS

'Cricket is very much alive in Kenya and during my seven years stay there I absolutely enjoyed playing the game. All the four club players in the national team are young and we hope in another three-four years they will take a big leap,' said Babra, who now works with the United Nations here.

The colourfully dressed small Kenyan group with Babra thoroughly enjoyed their side's fightback after a terrible start against Canada.

Babra, who speaks in thick American accent, astonishes you with his fluent Hindi.

'Oh! I have spent my formative year in New Delhi and it is here that I learned to play cricket. We later shifted to Kenya. In fact Seren's father David and I have played together. David, Seren, Elijah and Shem,' he said.

He was fully armed with a banner to root for Kenya and it read: 'Kenya are not minnows. They are lion in sheep's clothing.'

'Our club is very active. We often send our teams on tours. We tour England every summer, we are now planning a tour to India next year,' Babra said.

Kenya made a splash in the cricketing world when they best the West Indies in Pune in the 1996 World Cup. They shocked Sri Lanka in 2003 en route to the semifinal. But their form has dipped after that and the stand-off between the players and the authorities worsened it.

Babra, however, remains a staunch fan of Kenyan cricket and hopes there will be a turnaround soon.

'There are some talented young guys around and I am hopeful that Kenya will improve.'