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Sibten Kassamali, One Of East Africa’s
Finest Cricketers - An Obituary  

Coastweek -- 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.

“Sibtain Kassamali’s brilliant coaching was mainly responsible for Tanzania clinching the championship trophy.

“Earlier Sibtain had also played a very important role for Kenya.

“Mombasa Jeffreys 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 stalwart.

“He was a reliable and a hard hitting batsman. It was a great joy watching him clobbering sixes”.

Dar es Salaam Gymkhana Club had, on a reciprocal basis established a rapport with Jaffery Sports Club, Mombasa, thanks to the perseverance of Sibten Kassamali.

This writer had the privilege of conducting the interview of the visiting MCC side in the studio of DTV then.

The questionnaire 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 Sibten.

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 Eaglets side.

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 over.

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.

Sibten awarded Devpal with the cap of Eaglets Sport Club.

Dar Gymkhana’s 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:

“With profound 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 Cricket competition.

“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 championship.

“Sipten will surely be missed.”

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 cricket tournament.

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.

“People are 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.

“My short interaction with him was a matter of great joy and I learnt a lot from his experience”.

Mohamed Hassanali 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 his commitment.

“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 Sibten.

“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 members.

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 eyes.”

Rabidranath Tagore, 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 mystical focus.

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.”

Sibten Kassamali 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.

Winston, Churchill, 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 play cricket.

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.

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