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Josephat Ababu, the Kenyan medium pacer, gave a glimpse of his talent in the Under-19 World Cup held in South Africa in 1997-98 with his smooth run-up and fluid action. However, he struggled to make his mark for the Kenyan national team. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at the career of a pacer who was expected to take over the mantle of spearheading the attack from Martin Suji and Thomas Odoyo.
Over the years, Kenya has been known for its athletes touching the outer-limits of long distance running with soul-lifting performances. The likes of Daniel Koeman, Paul Terget, David Rudisha and many more have been feted for being symbols of excellence in long distance running. However, in the last two decades, Kenya has also made its mark in the world of cricket. Yes, they have lost their way a bit in recent times, but it is hard to forget them reaching the semi-final of the 2003 ICC World Cup held in the Rainbow nation, or their victory over the West Indies in the 1996 Wills World Cup.
The success of the Kenya national team during the 1990s and early 2000s also inspired cricketers in the country to take up the sport. One such cricketer who came through the ranks and played for Kenya was Josephat Ababu, the medium pacer.
Ababu made a name for himself by snaring the wicket of Zimbabwe’s premier all-rounder, Neil Johnson, with the very first ball of his One-Day International (ODI) career in the LG quadrangular series that also involved India and South Africa in 1999-00. With so many ODIs being played, it can get hard for fans to remember every game. But Ababu would have been proud of that achievement. By that time, he had already played for the Kenya Under-19 team in the Under-19 World Cup held in South Africa in 1997-98, and had impressed cricket pundits with his smooth run-up and fluid action.
In 2000, this writer also remembers Ababu playing for Kenya Cricket Association XI against a touring Karnataka First-Class side. Ababu even shone brightly in a three day game at Nairobi by taking three wickets. He took the wicket of the centurion in that match, Balachandra Akhil.
Unfortunately for him, he lost the plot and soon found himself in the wilderness. He was dropped from the Kenyan setup in 2001. However, he found his rhythm back in a series against Pakistan A in 2004 and was duly recalled to the national team by 2006. After finding little success while playing against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in 2005-06, he was dropped again and hasn’t played since for the national team.
Ababu still plays his cricket with dedication and devotion. Last year, he played in the East Africa cup for Nyatis team. But here was one cricketer who was expected to take over from the likes of Edward Odumbe, Thomas Odoyo, Martin Suji, Rajab Ali, Joseph Angara and company, as Kenya’s main stroke force. But sadly, with a mere three wickets to his name in nine ODIs for his country, he has failed to deliver the goods. It also has to be said that Kenyan cricket has been ravaged by corruption and petty politics in recent times and that has not helped young cricketers to pen their mark.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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