It was 1996 ICC ICC World Cup. Kenya, a lesser known team and West Indies, one of the strong contenders for the title. When they were scheduled to collide in Pune, everyone expected a white wash of the Kenyans which, in fact, was reversed. After the Kenyans defeated the WIndies, it became a news overnight. That victory came from a contribution of the team for sure, but their captain had a larger share of it by taking 3 wickets and becoming the Man of The Match. His name is Maurice Odumbe.
Odumbe captained the team in two World Cups, 1996 and 1999. He was a member of 2003 World Cup and played a vital role taking the team to Semi final, maintaining a batting average of 42 and also taking 9 wickets. Looking at his contributions towards Kenyan Cricket, he is called the ‘Game Changer for Kenya’ and is also the most iconic player of Kenyan Cricket. But where is he now? Why is such an iconic player nowhere in the active cricketing community?
Things changed when he got accused of match-fixing in the year 2004 and got banned for 5 years from cricket. The player who represented the country in 61 ODIs stated he wanted to return to cricket, but things seemed quite challenging. Failures turned him into a drug addict instead gradually leaving him bankrupt, drowned in debts.
His story came to light when recently his childhood friend and the coach of Indian football team Kingfisher East Bengal, Sammy Omollo, expressed his wish to ask former Indian Captain Sourav Ganguly for help.
“It’s hard to recognise him ( Odumbe) now. His addiction to drugs almost destroyed him. He doesn’t even have money to get himself his daily meals. His health has detoriated, drowned in debts…” Omollo got emotional while talking about his his friend. “I want to meet Sourav personally. Sourav knows Maurice quite well. If he helps somehow, a great cricketer might just get back to his life.”
Both Omollo and Odumbe grew up together in the Nairobi Park Road region along with another legendary Kenyan cricketer Steve Tikolo. While Odumbe played as a goal-keeper, Omollo was more into cricket but much to the contrary, their professions changed later. “Even after becoming famous, he has turned up for many of my matches and I also went to see many of his games as well. Our friendship was beyond things.”
“After spending five black years of his, Odumbe tried to get back his groove but failed. His wife dumped him as well as life and eventually he got immersed in drugs and all the wrong stuffs.”
According to Omollo, “One day Steve(Tikolo) called me up saying Maurice is not keeping well…that he is detoriating day by day. We should do something about it. He was admitted to Aga Khan Rehab in Pakistan but didn’t have the money to continue and had escaped twice for this reason. We then collected some amount of money and kept the rehab going. But it worked just for somedays.”
When asked why he wants to meet Ganguly, Omollo said ” Being a cricketer and a man good at heart, I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can. I hope Maurice will be able to live a better life than the one he is living now.”