Revamped Malawi Cricket Union (MCU) faces a long and ugly battle to transform domestic cricket which has for a long time been defined by gender and ethnicity, into an all-inclusive sport.
Pockets of resistance are evident in Mpingwe Sports Club’s 10 cricket clubs refusal to affiliate to the new Vivek Ganesan-led MCU committee which has set the Saint Andrew’s International High School as its base and opened the sport up to all Malawians as players and officials.
Ganesan claims that previously cricket did not embrace ethnic diversity. Further, failure to account for $80 000 led to the previous MCU suspension in 2011. Africa Cricket Association and the International Cricket Council lifted the suspension in 2013.
Refusal to be affiliated to the new MCU has eight Mpingwe teams’ players ineligible to participate in international competitions, let alone represent Malawi. Other Limbe clubs such as Indian Sports Club and Alendo Club of Lilongwe are affiliated to the new MCU.
“I feel sorry for some of the senior players of these teams who are capable of playing for Malawi on the international stage, but will not be able to benefit from or contribute to cricket development programmes because they are not eligible and not being allowed to affiliate or register with MCU,” explained Ganesan whose body runs TNM 20/20 leagues in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Mpingwe cricket clubs’ member Saeed Limdawala, last week, insisted that their refusal to pay membership to the new MCU was not being influenced by ethnicity, but that the new MCU were refusing to, as per new constitution, grant each club voting rights.
“Previously, we had eight teams and four votes or a vote for every two teams, but now we have 10 teams and they want us to have one vote. It is incorrect that we do not accommodate other people in our clubs. We will continue to play our own social games. We know our players will not be eligible for any international tournament. That is okay,” Limdawala explained.
When sent a follow-up e-mail, Limdawala refused to respond to allegations that their clubs are restricted to a particular ethnic group. He referred Weekend Nation to their chairperson Satish Zala, who also refused to comment on the matter.
Ganesan said the ICC reinstated MCU on condition that it should transform. He added that the new constitution mandates only clubs with a constitution and elected office bearers to vote, but the Mpingwe clubs are refusing to set structures and pay K200 per player registration fee.
“One of the most important criteria for ICC membership eligibility is the review and update of MCU’s constitution every year; however, MCU up to October 15 2013 was supported by a constitution that was adopted in 1925 and in 88 years has not been amended or reviewed even once,” Ganesan explained.
“One of our main objectives as MCU is to make cricket affordable and accessible to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender or financial status,” he said.
Dickson Matiya was part of the former MCU development side that had indigenous Malawians.
Matiya, who says life is better under the new administration, claimed to have endured being sidelined under the previous administration.
“We were always sidelined. For example, in 2010 when we hosted the international competition, I was supposed to be the wicket keeper, but I was dropped for someone who did not train. Gift Kansonkho and I also travelled with the team to South Africa, but we never played,” said Matiya who is part of the new academy.
The Malawi National Council of Sports executive secretary George Jana, whose body spearheaded MCU’s revival through board member Krishna Achuthan, admitted that there is resistance to open up cricket to all Malawians.
“Council will fund the association for its programmes and those refusing to be part of the MCU will not benefit from this fund and neither can they represent the country in any form,” said Jana.
ACA readmitted the new MCU after it submitted a constitution with proof of girls and boys involvement in cricket and ant-racism. Achuthan felt the major source of Mpingwe clubs’ refusal to affiliate were to do with the voting rights.
“Mpingwe is a Muslim club and they do not have any development programmes. The members want to play cricket for the love of the game as they do not have the time due to business commitments. The onus to bring young Malawians to play cricket is on all the clubs. But I am pleased to add the academy has a strong programme and we are seeing young Malawians coming through,” Achuthan explained.
ACA chief executive officer Cassim Suliman referred all questions to Sports Council. Malawi cricket was on the up in 2010 when it hosted and won the World Cricket League Division Three championship.
MCU then had Malawian players, coaches and officials, but they were frustrated out. Notable among them was Brian Mpinda who in Weekend Nation interview of 2004 revealed that there was an element of discrimination in cricket.