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‘Boys with big dreams’- Patel, Ngare, Mutembei making the most of presentable chances

17/03/21 Nairobi, Kenya

With a little over a combined seven years between them, Starfield’s trio of Aarnav Patel, William Ngare and Kevin Mutembei are already making a mark for themselves by taking the rare opportunities that come their way to play cricket for Nairobi Gymkhana’s Super League team in their young cricketing careers.

The ambitious youngsters have given themselves three years each to make the starting slots in the Gymkhana A squad their own. There’s hope that they can translate their development into something bigger and eventually represent the national side in the not so distant future.

Patel the younger of the trio’s passion began from an early age and understandly because of his father’s influence and only got involved with Starfield majorly due to the fact they offer better training facilities than he could access anywhere else within the academies in Nairobi.

A word for Patel who debuted for Gymkhana A on 27th February, 2021 against Kanbis Sports Club in the just concluded Nairobi Invitational Cricket League Twenty20 Tournament: the youngster has truly been a jack of all trades on the cricket field, not only progressing with his bowling style but also contributing offensively with the bat. "He is a young boy with a big future," reckons Coach Rushab Patel. "You can see day in, day out he is starting to improve. He is going to be a big player in the future."

On the other front, it’s not seen as totally normal for boys from culturally football dominated Eastlands of Nairobi neighbourhood to choose cricket as their first sport from a very young age, explains Ngare – the first of the two (Mutembei is the other) in this article who enjoys the services of the academy on a full scholarship pact.

“It’s about education and the success it could bring in life and many a times, nothing else, and if at all, its football, but it’s refreshingly a good way of changing those long held perceptions on life. 

It sounds like a cliché but cricket has been my life. No one handed me anything on a plate, since I was a kid. Everything I know, everything I have learned as far as sport is concerned comes from cricket."

It’s cultural, it’s traditional, and it’s in the country. He stops, pulls a face and smiles, and reckons how lucky he is in his journey thus far with Starfield. The youngster with four Gymkhana A caps praises the impacts, the coaches have had on him that have made a big change in his approach to playing. 

Bit by bit, the coaches have helped him adopt the habits of a professional set up and routines that they weren’t used to doing are now part of his game and he is instilling that onto his system.

Mutembei on his part has prime years remaining if or when he can fully take advantage of his skills. He only has to focus on his game since he receives a full sponsorship pact and a bursary support for his education “a dream for some of his schoolmates,” says the Form Three student at Sunflower Secondary School, where he and Ngare attends.  

“Train more’, the now regular Gymkhana B opening bowler, Mutembei says. He repeats, ‘Train more. Work more. Have a more competitive mentality. Look after yourself more. Be more ambitious. More ... everything; To the point where, you don’t know if it’s obsession, but I now know I have to live this, I have to live for it. The mentality is to go out there and express ourselves and from what we are learning in this academy, we are being readied for such.” 

Mutembei has largely been faultless in his six previous appearances for Gymkhana A and could well have been earmarked as one of the brightest young players in the Nairobi division one league and his coaches expect the demand for his services could break out in the coming seasons thanks to the groundwork that they’ve laid down on him in recent seasons.

“It’s a process, it’s a question of time,” Mutembei explains. Good conditions, good facilities, fully professional coaching is what makes a future player better. 

It's not all pure fortune, though. "We have all grown over the years, myself included. We have improved physically and tactically, but that idea will always be there underlying it all that the start at a younger age holds more advantage as the muscle memory in sports gets built better in the formative years. 

So much of what happened in 2020 can be justifiably understood as regression due to the pandemic that hit the world really hard. Some of the routines that they were used to were unsustainable due to the ‘new normal’, and for the most part of last year we were reasonably denied the opportunity to partake in league matches with the suspension of all sports in the country, but this term, we hope that the pandemic can be overcome so that both of those things health and playing careers can be turned around dramatically.

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