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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 17:20 GMT
Story of Cricket Part III: Africa
Nowhere in the world does cricket have greater potential to develop than in the continent of Africa.

Kenya celebrate
Kenya's success was the surprise of the 2003 World Cup
"By the end of the decade Africa could be second only to Asia in terms of cricketing importance," says presenter Barry Richards in the third episode of the Story of Cricket.

South Africa has traditionally been the hotbed on the continent for a game that has traditionally been the preserve of the white minority.

But, as the 2003 World Cup showed, cricket has spread like wildfire through Africa over the last 10 years.

Four African countries took part in the showpiece tournament and, confounding all predictions, minnows Kenya did best of all, reaching the semi-finals.

Cricket was marvellous in bringing people together at a time when they desperately needed it
Omar Henry
SA's first black player
However, as Richards could attest, cricket and politics have often been inextricably linked on the continent.

The opening batsman, rated one of the best ever, played just four Tests before his country was banned from the international game for 25 years because of the government's Apartheid policy.

His team-mate Graeme Pollock tells the programme: "They realised that South Africa is a sport-minded country and that if you affected the South African way of life you could bring about change."

The only opportunity South Africa had to see international cricket between 1965 and 1991 was when rebel teams visited from England, Australia and the West Indies.

Former South Africa batsman Barry Richards narrates on BBC World Service
The programme is the third of a six-part series detailing the history of the game
Former Test cricketers Michael Holding and Ravi Shastri present subsequent programmes
It was not until the dismantling of the regime that the country was allowed to return, playing a one-day series in India and then their first ever Test in the West Indies in 1992.

Dave Richardson, wicket-keeper at the time, remembers a side that was, "Wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, enthusiastic and very ignorant."

But for the first time one of their number, off-spinner Omar Henry, was black.

The off-spinner made his international debut in a World Cup group match and is now South Africa's chairman of selectors.

"Cricket was marvellous in bringing people together at a time when they desperately needed it," he said.

Protestors against England's rebel tour in 1982
Rebel tours of South Africa provoked a storm of protest
But controversy has continued away from the playing field, memorably when South Africa captain hansie Cronje received a life ban for his involvement in match fixing.

The Cricket World Cup was billed as a celebration of Africa, but it was over-shadowed somewhat by the row over whether matches should be played in President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe team members Andy Flower and Henry Olonga took the field in the opening match wearing black armbands, mourning the "death of democracy" in the country.

But whatever the situation off the field, administrators are in no doubt the game of cricket is far healthier than on Zimbabwe's admission to the Test ranks in 1992.

Part 3: 22/1/03 - 24/1/03
All times GMT
Aus and NZ : Thurs 2106, Fri 0306, 0706, 1606
East Asia: Fri 0206, 0706, 1306, 1906
South Asia: Thurs 2206, Fri 0506, 0906, 1406
East Africa: Fri 0706, 1406, Sat 0006
West Africa: Fri 0906, 1646, Sat 0006
Middle East: Fri 0806, 1306, 1706, Sat 0106
Europe: Fri 0906, 1306, 1906, Sat 0106
Americas: Fri 1406, 2006, Sat 0106, 0606
"Cricket has grown to such a proportion that in 10 or 15 years time we will be a solid Test nation," says former captain and coach David Houghton.

Zimbabwe Cricket Union chairman Peter Chingoka explains: "In the last 12 years we've had a bias towards development and making it a mass sport.

"I firmly believe once you get the numbers, the cream rises to the top."

Also bidding for cricket headlines in Africa are two nations newer to the top level of the sport.

After their strong World Cup showing, Kenya have backing from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to gain Test status by 2005.

And Namibia are beginning to reap the rewards of spreading the game beyond its white power-base in the country.

"Africa is one of the success stories of recent years," says ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed.

"The Kenya story is terrific, and there are a lot of other countries where cricket is growing very well."

Mike Procter
"Before 1970 only the white population were behind us"

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21 Mar 03  |  Kenya

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