In his final blog of the Tour, MCC's Jim Hindson describes the Club's concluding days in Tanzania and Kenya, with weather once again proving to be an unlikely nuisance.
Following on from my previous blog, Thursday morning began with an early flight from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha followed by a two hour drive through the north of Tanzania to the Kenyan border. Our eventual destination was Nairobi for the final fixture of the tour against a Kenyan Select XI and the journey included a spectacular drive through the heart of Ambseli National Park where the touring party enjoyed a brief stopover. This provided the opportunity to see some incredible wildlife with sightings that included lions, hippos and elephants in an experience that will live long in the memory.
The journey was capped by a visit to a Maasai tribe that saw the tour party invited into the village. We were soon sheltering inside one of the mud dwellings as torrential rains transformed the barren lands. The Maasai had been suffering drought conditions for two years before our visit and the irony was not lost on us on a tour that has been hampered by spectacular rain throughout. The grateful smiles on the Massai tribesmen as we left the now flooded village illustrated that they received far more from our brief visit than they dared to dream of.
The next day, a five-hour road trip was briefly halted in the Kenyan wilderness as, led by manager Tim Kirk, the squad remembered those who had fallen in battle in a poignant and touching ceremony.
It was early evening when the tour party arrived at the Nairobi Club - the final destination on this African tour. It was noticeably cooler than in Dar Es Salaam and we were informed that recent rain (what is it with this tour and weather!) meant that the ground was sodden and that tomorrow’s fixture might not go ahead.
The evening was spent at a black tie function organised to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Kongonis Cricket Club, who play at the Nairobi Club. A lively question and answer session on all things cricket involved a number of the squad, but it was MCC umpire (and former Leicestershire and England cricketer) Roger Tolchard who stole the show.
Elsewhere, England deaf player Jimmy Dixon has performed admirably throughout the trip and it has been fascinating to see how he has integrated into the squad. During the first week, teammates were at pains to ensure this talented seam bowler felt included, writing down notes on whatever we could get our hands on to communicate. By the end of the tour, through Jimmy’s perseverance, players had learnt to sign a number of words to Jimmy and were even communicating this way with each other. A great example of how cricket brings people together and also an insight into what a brilliant bloke Jimmy is.
Unfortunately, heavy overnight rain meant that our final match of the tour was called off without a ball being bowled. Golf and shopping were the order of the day before an evening flight to Dubai, to then transit onto London. Scott McKechie and Simon Lambert bid a fond farewell here, heading back to Hong Kong and Melbourne respectively. It’s always sad to say goodbye but to be honest, it had already felt odd departing Nairobi without Roger Tolchard who had stayed behind to visit family.
It’s amazing how close you become with people whilst on tour - a group of strangers just a couple of weeks ago now firm friends. The trip had begun with a surprise loss for the Club in the opening match but was followed by three wins and this success was matched by the commitment of the tour party to spread the Spirit of Cricket on and off the field, most notably at the primary school coaching session in Dar Es Salaam.