This feature is
an obituary dedicated to Sibten Kassamali, one of East and
Central Africa’s leading cricketing stalwarts who passed away in
Mombasa on the 27th of October 2018.
Subhash Modi, the
Kenyan international cricket umpire, former Kenya player, former
Kenya selector and former Chairman of Kenya Cricket Umpires and
Scorers Association paid a fitting tribute to Sibten, “It is
indeed a sad loss for East African cricket.
“The untimely demise
of one of the finest former Kenyan cricketers comes as a jolt to
many of us who knew him closely.
“During the East and
Central Africa tournament held in Dar es Salaam I was invited as
a neutral cricket umpire.
“I was very much
impressed with his scientific coaching. Shabbir Dewji, the
Chairman of TCA then had given Sibten a free reign.
brilliant coaching was mainly responsible for Tanzania clinching
the championship trophy.
“Earlier Sibtain had
also played a very important role for Kenya.
and Nairobi Swamibapa, who remained champions for many years in
the past owed their success to the marshalling and coaching
skills of Sipten.
Coastweek -- Sibten
Kassamali, one of East and Central Africa’s leading cricketing
“He was a reliable
and a hard hitting batsman. It was a great joy watching him
Dar es Salaam
Gymkhana Club had, on a reciprocal basis established a rapport
with Jaffery Sports Club, Mombasa, thanks to the perseverance of
This writer had the
privilege of conducting the interview of the visiting MCC side
in the studio of DTV then.
for the Television programme was jointly compiled with Sibten.
He was captain cum
coach of Jaffery and he was revered and respected by youngsters
of every denomination - Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Christian, who
remember him as a genuine crusader for the upliftment of
cricketing play remember him as a genuine crusader for the
upliftment of cricketing play on the field of play.
There are past
national cricketers of Kenya Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia
who have had their cricketing defects checked and corrected by
One cannot forget
the preparations Eaglets Sports Club had carried out in
reinforcing itself with 7 Kenyan National players in the
nineties in order to stake a claim for the overall championship
of the ongoing Dar es Salaam Cricket league.
The Tikolo brothers, Odoyo, Kamande, had all complemented the
Gymkhana and Eaglets were facing each other in the 50 overs
Sunday league match.
Sibten Kassamali was leading the Eaglets side.
Gymkhana had needed 182 runs or so to win.
The thrust was
provided by 17 year old Devpal Gupta who scored a chanceless
102. With 3 runs to go the win was secured in the 50th
The last delivery of
that over fetched the winning run.
It was a
heartwarming sight to behold every Kenyan player including
Sibten shaking the hand of Devpal and patting him on the back as
he was out caught after getting his century.
Devpal with the cap of Eaglets Sport Club.
cricket tour to Mombasa on 4th of April 2010 was a
great success, Sibten again playing a role that cemented public
relations with Jaffery Sports Club.
Mahmood Rahim, the
left hand fast bowler of Tanzania stated:
sadness I learnt of the passing away of Sibten, one of the most
lauded cricketers in East Africa.
“He attracted many
fans wherever he went since he carried his ebullience with him.
“I remember his
innings in Mombasa during the Africa Shia Ithnasheri Federation
“Nairobi were 56 for
5 and chasing a total of 280 runs. Sibten held on tenaciously at
one end and single handedly won the game for Nairobi with a
cavalier knock of 178 not out.
“I had the
opportunity to work with him during the under 19 East and
Central African tournament held in Malawi, when Tanzania won the
“Sipten will surely
Sanjay Bhatia, an
active member of Dar es Salaam Regional Cricket Committee,
displayed a picture of Sibten Kassanali which captured both of
them with earphones and the TV screen, commentating in the APL
According to Sanjay,
“We were then steaming on the internet and providing details of
the matches to cricket fans in Dar es Salaam”.
He went on
philosophically, “We have all come into this world only to leave
went on philosophically, “We have all come into this world only
to leave one day.
“What defines us are
our good (or bad) deeds, our treatment of fellow humans and most
importantly our character in the most difficult of situations.
remembered many years beyond their demise, but the question is
whether those memories bring a smile/sadness or relief that the
person is gone.
“Sadly God decides
to take the good guys, instead of the ones who don’t deserve to
be on Earth.
“Sibu was a cool
character, jovial, witty, straightforward and immensely talented
in cricketing terms.
interaction with him was a matter of great joy and I learnt a
lot from his experience”.
wrote from Nairobi a literary piece, a section of which is as
under: “Umpires were cautious when giving him out.
“The decision, out
or not out, had to be outright with no element of doubt.
“Keepers kept their
loud mouths closed for to anger him was asking for trouble - a
long chase in runs”.
Hamisi Abdallah, the
recent Captain of Tanzania echoed his warm sentiments: “Sibten
was friendly, kindly, humanistic and a true leader.
“He used to coach us
in cricket as well as about life. I will always remember him for
“It was because of
Sibten that I am a better player and Captain.”
Mohamed Nathoo, the
former Captain of Tanzania Cricket XI while expressing his
condolences to the cricket fraternity of Tanzania said, “In a
span of 4 decades I have come across numerous elegant cricketers
from school to the national levels.
“One of them was
“He was a match
winner, an excellent all rounder and a gentleman.
“I had the
opportunity to be with him playing for the same club and when he
groomed up the national team.
“He has left behind
a foot print and signature of his own in cricket”.
His knowledge of the
game, laws included, with a thinking mind made him a good reader
of the game.
He was a strategist
and his captainship was sagacious.
Needless to say that
with Sibten Kassanali at the helm of the ‘brains trust’ of TCA
in the past under a willing and accommodating Chairman, had the
independence and freedom to plan and shape up the national team
players in line with what he thought was most suitable according
to the strength and weakness of the opposing team.
The selection of
players in the national side was based entirely on performance.
There of players in
the national side was based entirely on performance.
There was a
Selection Committee that was given specific terms of reference
to pick up the best possible side of Tanzania.
With the current
selection of the national team based on the whims and fancy of
one or two individuals who will not even know about the length
and breadth of the ‘danger area’ of the pitch, leave aside the
technique to demonstrate a cover drive, it is no wonder that the
Tanzanian team is at the bottom of ICC table for the Associate
The lacuna left
behind by Sibten is very huge. The quality of communicating
tacitly and tactfully without being disrespectful resonated with
the national players.
That was the
hallmark of his credentials and the players in turn were all out
to go and perform according to the best of their abilities.
“I know that the day
will come when my sight of this earth shall be lost, a life will
take its leave in silence, drawing the last curtain over my
the Poet-laureate of India draws out the poignancy from one of
his poetries in the Gitanjali.
Death as the
ultimate reality of Life gets to be painted by Tagore in a
Isaac Asimov wrote
in Life, 1984: “If my doctor told me I only had six minutes to
live, I wouldn’t brood I’d type a little faster.”
must be wishing and hoping that in the after world there still
will be cricket waiting for him without any interruption from
rain for quick runs.
on his seventy-fifth birthday 1949 stated: “I an ready to meet
my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting
me is another matter.”
Churchill did not
The Maker will
certainly be pleased to meet Sibten Kassamali.
May Sibten rest in
eternal peace and may his legacy be carried forward by captains
and coaches all over East and Central Africa - with Tanzania in
totality, to relay the human face of cricket to upcoming
cricketers in particular.
Dr. K. S. Gupta is a
Private Dental Practioner.
He played for
Tanzania as an opening batsman and wicketkeeper.
He is also a former
International Cricket Umpire.