The 2019 Cricket domestic season came to an exciting end a fortnight ago with Charity CC and Challengers CC being crowned champions in the women and men’s first division league, respectively.
The year 2019 began with a lot of promise with the Cricket World Cup trophy making a stop-over in Kigali on its global pre-tournament tour around the 5 cricketing regions of the world.
In Africa, only 2 other countries (Nigeria and South Africa) got the honour of hosting this precious piece of silverware sought after by all elite cricketers. The idea behind hosting the Cricket World Cup trophy was to ignite the dreams and aspirations of Rwandan Cricketers to aim for the highest of awards in a cricketer’s playing career.
Rwanda has become synonymous with punching above its weight and Rwanda Cricket Association’s (RCA) ambitions are no different. In the next 5 to 10 years, the association has set 3 lofty targets;
• To play in the Under 19 women’s 50 over World Cup in 2025
• To play in the Under 19 Men’s 50 over World Cup in 2026
• To play at the Senior Women’s 50 over World Cup in 2029
For these targets to be achieved, a lot of hard work has to be accomplished over the next 5 years.
The RCA executive board recognise the enormity of the task at hand and have recently hired a seasoned Kenyan cricket legend named Martin Suji as Rwanda Cricket’s new Technical Director. The 48-year old comes with over 25 years of combined playing and coaching experience.
In his playing days, he was a non-compromising fast bowler renowned for his work ethic and attention to the smallest of details. That is exactly what Rwanda Cricket needs if it is to rise to the ambitious targets it has set for itself.
The women’s game has particularly grown in leaps and bounds in the last 5 years and the team is currently ranked 7th in Africa and 30th globally. This is a solid platform upon which to launch into the business end of global competitions.
VISION 2025 will focus on elevating the Rwanda women’s team into the top 3 spots on the continent and into top 15 globally.
Our Men’s game still has a longer journey to travel in terms of building up the experience and skill set required to impress at the global stage but the work to get there has already begun.
Structures have been built starting with the Under 15s and the quality coming through in the last 2 years has been phenomenal. What is clear is that cricket talent abounds in Rwanda and the only challenge is for the association to transform this raw talent at the grassroots into elite cricketers that can compete favourably on the global stage.
This will be achieved through organising regular domestic competitions and exposing the age category teams (U15, U17, U19 and U23) to international competitions as early as possible to gain familiarity with the standards expected at the global stage.
Beyond regular competition, the quality of facilities available to both players and coaches influence the progress that can be made in growth of any sport. Cricket in Rwanda has particularly struggled to access the required quality of facilities to develop elite players and coaches.
RCA is currently in negotiations with the management of IPRC Kigali for the redevelopment of the Cricket Oval within the institution’s grounds to an international standard facility. This project is on the association’s budget for 2020 and if designs are approved in time, the redevelopment should be completed by the beginning of the cricket season in February, 2021.
Another ground is also planned in Ndera Sector, in Gasabo District, and if plans are approved, works on the ground should also start before the end of 2020. Barring any unforeseen interruptions, this project should be completed within 2 years and the new ground should be available by the end of 2021.
The cricket body continues to partner with organisations like Cricket without Boundaries (CWB) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) in developing local coaching skills. Ultimately players can only be as good as the quality of coaching they receive. About 20-30 coaches undertake RCA’s Level 1 coaching courses annually and about 5-10 of those go on to become Level 2 coaches who can handle clubs, schools and junior national teams.
Most people will rightly remember the opening of the Gahanga Cricket Stadium in October 2017 as the monumental turning point of Rwanda Cricket. Now that the euphoria that comes with acquisition of a new toy is subsiding, the real work has begun.
The next 5 years will define Rwandan Cricket for generations to come.
For those fortunate to be part of the game at the moment, we should all happily embrace the challenge that fate has bestowed upon us. For those on the outside and looking in, this is the time to jump onto the ship of destiny. Through the game of cricket, dreams of many young Rwandans are taking shape and the game is acting as the bridge to connect these youngsters to the otherwise daunting wider world.
Social media claims to connect people in the virtual world but sports actually make it possible in the real world. A youngster from the hills of Kinihira in Northern Rwanda can realistically dream of meeting and playing against his peers from Papua New Guinea at a global event; that is the power of Sport!
The story of Rwandan Cricket is the tangible microcosm of the implausible rebirth of a devastated nation. Rwanda is now at the centre of global discourse in governance, development economics and tourism. Next on that list is Cricket; come be a part of something bigger than just the fun of sport, come join us and have the opportunity to write a legacy!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND SEE YOU AT GAHANGA CRICKET STADIUM IN 2020
The writer is the President
of Rwanda Cricket Association