Cricket Kenya’s Lost Generations: The Asirigwas

It’s a sunny morning at the Nairobi Gymkhana as one of the Starfield Sports Limited Academy’s Cricket teams prepares to take on their Swamibapa Sports Club counterparts. I spot one of the Asirigwa brothers, (not sure which one between Brian and Protus) tagging along some of the Starfield players who have just wound up their weekly coaching session.

The Asirigwa brothers are inseparable. Photo Credits: Raymac

Later on while conducting the interview, I still can’t figure out which of the two I spotted earlier. What struck me is that I had not seen either of them play in the last couple of years preceding the current ongoing season. Reason being that their mother Club, Obuya Cricket Club (O.C.A) had been axed from the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) League, denying them a chance of plying their trade in the Super League after helping their team to be elevated to the top tier.

“For two years, we showed up for training at Hodari without a fixture. That really killed our spirit because we had worked really hard to get to the Super League. We played for a little bit, sharing our home ground at Sir Ali Muslim Club but that was it,” says Protus.

Protus Asirigwa shows off his bowling skills. Photo Credits: Raymac

The brothers are forever grateful for being scouted by former O.C.A coach Josephat Agunga and Charles Obuya while at Khalsa Primary School in 2008 straight to the Academy. By that time, they lived in what is now referred to as ‘Monali Estate’ in South B. Protus, the elder of the two, was in Grade 6 and Brian, 5. An exemplary feat seeing as their school did not even play cricket. “If it were not for O.C.A and the Obuya brothers, we would never have played Cricket. We owe all our achievements in the Sport to them,” they say, each in their own words.

Inseparable, they continued playing even while at Rudolf High School, having moved to Ayani Estate on the other side of town.

‘Charlie’ as he is fondly referred to in Cricket circles tells that the siblings grew to be outstanding cricketers. “We picked out around 10 players from the Midlands area around South C where we lived and brought them to train at Jaffery Sports Club and later Hodari, where the O.C.A is currently located. Only Protus and Brian went on to become quality players from that crop. They went with us to India in 2010 and I can say they were quite unfortunate not to feature for the Under – 19 side. Brian actually missed out on the 2018 U19 New Zealand World Cup squad by just a month,” says Charlie.

The brothers want to stay in the game despite missed opportunities. Photo Credits: Raymac

Protus tells me that he’s the only one who managed to travel with O.C. A to India in 2010 where they won the T20 series against the Chandigarh Academy side. “Brian was scared of flying,” he says, as they both give it a hearty laugh.

Despite their love for the game, the siblings rue lost chances mostly occasioned by the local cricket climate over the last decade or so. Brian, the most unlucky of the two, also got picked in the provisional squad that made it to the 2018 Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand but did not make it out to the plane as his Coach earlier stated.

Brian Isaiah, the elder of the two, was unlucky to miss the 2018 U-19World Cup by a month. Photo Credits: Raymac

Ex – Kenya international skipper and Kenya U19 Coach of the team that made history by making it to the New Zealand World Cup Jimmy Kamande says that the two had a lot of promise. “Brian in particular showed promise with his off spin and had the advantage of being a top order batter when he got picked in the provisional squad. I later got to work with his youner sibling and now both of them since we play in sister Clubs (Kamande also plays in the Division I League for Stray Lions Cricket Club ‘B’.) However, staying out of the League for two years did not help their cause. Anyone would suffer if they didn’t play the competitive cricket they were used to for that long. The fact that they are playing again is encouraging and they should aim to get back and hone their skills in the Super League,” states Kamande.

Now, at 25 and 23 years of age, respectively, they say that age has caught up with them and they don’t foresee a national team future anymore, sadly. “We still love the game and want to continue playing as much as we can. We believe that we have a lot to give and have not yet played to our potential,” they both chime in.

The future may seem uncertain for the Asirigwas but there is always hope, Photo Credits: Raymac

Being from a sporting family, they have the full support of their parents who have since retired and relocated from Nairobi to their rural home in Mago, Vihiga County. Their first born, Cetrick Muhinji didn’t have much luck playing Cricket, although not for lack of trying but for a hearing impairment. He ventured into football instead and now plays for the Deaf Football Association of Kenya (DFAK), even participating in the just concluded Deaflympics Ball Games Qualifiers held in Nairobi in September.

The two right arm orthodox spinners motivate each other, having both moved to Division I side, Stray Leopards Cricket Club after the hiatus where O.C.A didn’t take part in the NPCA League. Interestingly enough, they find themselves batting together more often than not, in game changing partnerships in the lower order.

The siblings begun playing for Stray Leopards CC this season. Photo Credits: Raymac

Brian, whose role – model is the evergreen top order bat – Chris Gayle, says that he would like to get back to opening the batting like he used to at O.C.A and follow in the Jamaican’s footsteps to the best of his ability. For Protus, he cannot get his eyes off Sunil Narine’s bowling arm, even when he has it safely tucked away in his brief run up. “I like looking at his variations and the way he grips the ball so that I can keep reinventing myself like he has, over time. Even when he hides the ball, I still strive to see what’s happening with his grip and turn,” quips Protus.

At the end of the day, I still can’t decipher who I saw earlier. On the pitch, though, the body language is quite definitive.

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