The Day Kenya Went Hunting and Shot Down S. Lanka

Monday March 3 2003

By BINYAVANGA WAINAINA

So we won. My attempt to streak across the pitch was checked by a large and burly policeman. If we had lost, I would have reported him to the Truth, Reconciliation and Restitution Committee (restitution would involve returning my clothes). I had to hide under the stands without a stitch on.

I tried to persuade the guy to let me do my thing, but this is the new Kenya, you can’t go about saying, "Who the hell do you think you are! Do you know who I am?"

Especially when you are wearing next to nothing.

He! What scenes. I found myself sitting with the Sri Lankan fans – so had to strangle my screams every time Kenya took a wicket because they are our friends, and how do I cheer their worst day in cricket?

Then I also forgot the worst thing about being in the stadium: no replays.

Wicket no 6: Rushed to Ngara to buy some mitumba to wear (ended up looking like a rap musician). Thanks Mrs Patel, for lending me your sari.

Wicket no 7: I was looking for money to buy a beer (oddly, they were selling South African beer).

Wicket no 8: I was asking the guy next to me what the score was.

Wicket no 9: Went to meet a friend who wanted to catch the end of the game.

Why couldn’t the Kenyans warn us at least a little in advance that the wickets were coming? Or at least take them a little slower? Then some amazing scenes at the stadium:

Saw a man buying free ice-creams for everybody. Saw two of the high-tech security team queuing up behind school kids for free ice-cream.

Saw a woman in a sari singing, "Sisi wana Kenya tuna kula happy!"

And her husband shaking his turban up and down, "Ai ia oooo. Ai a oooooooo."

So our pool is wide open. Sri Lanka having beaten West Indies, needs to beat South Africa to qualify. We qualified on Saturday by taking out poor old Bangladesh one again. South Africa needs to beat Sri Lanka. I hear that South Africans have suddenly discovered a new love for Kenya, now that we have made it possible for them to qualify. I hope the tourist board is listening...

Now, I know that we need to market our country as a tourist destination, but did you, like me, feel a little irritated that all they could find to show of Kenya to the television audiences around the world were animals? Not even some drama – maybe a lion hunting or something. Mostly I saw some giraffe chewing leaves. Why would anyone come from wherever to see a giraffe chewing?

What happened to all those buzzwords: cultural tourism (Can’t a Young Luo/Kikuyu/Masai make money anymore?); ecotourism (The Wild Marabou Storks of Nakumatt Mombasa Road)

How nice it was to see our ministers there!

Remember the old days? KBC would go, "This is the seven o’clock news. President Daniel arap Moi was seen off today by the full contingent of Cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries, tender-seeking sycophants, military commanders, airport administration, choirmasters and traditional dancers as he boarded a plane to go to Eastleigh Airbase to receive a 21-gun salute, where the same Cabinet ministers, choirmasters etcetera were there to receive him. And in other news, Kenya beat Sri Lanka in a cricket match today at Nairobi Gymkhana..."

The New Zealand authorities have come down very hard on their brawling players. A $250 fine. I am sure after losing this vast sum of money, they will not ever go near a nightclub again, and risk their form, reputation and safety. Stubburn guys. If the management of a South African club asks me to leave, I am out of there, bwana. South Africans carry guns! It isn’t like Nairobi where you will be humiliated by being lifted out of the club by your underwear. How potent exactly was that beer? If they had come to Kenya, we would have given them free ice-cream after they lost the match...

Then Shane Warne. Isn’t it the usual thing to say, "My doctor gave me the medication and assured me that there were no performance-enhancing substances in it"? No, Warne, he says, " My mother gave it to me. For losing weight."

Are we supposed to assume that his mother is an expert on performance-enhancing substances? Or was he playing for sympathy? Did he mean he couldn’t tell his mother no?

Or that it never occurred to him, sporting legend that he is, to always check first with a qualified pharmacologist that the drug was safe, especially as he was taking it just before the World Cup?

Of course, Australia are motoring on as if opponents are an irritating hindrance to the World Cup they have come to win. My dream finals? Sri Lanka versus Australia. India versus Australia. Lance Klusener versus Australia. Anybody versus Australia, where Australia loses. Otherwise it becomes too predictable.

So it is the week after, we have beaten Bangladesh, the ICC has denied, yet again, that it said that it was watching the tapes for any evidence of match-fixing. We have qualified for the Super Six. Now, would it be a good time to ask, why, oh why we do not have Test status? What more do we need to do? Win the World Cup?

That can be arranged. I am consulting a well-known cricket-loving witchdoctor (or pitchdoctor) in Kisumu, who is known to have rained out many matches.

They call him El Nino McOjwang. He lives in the Kano plains, and this is not his busy season. If I can find the guy, my new dream final will be Kenya versus Australia.