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World's youngest cricket player scores century

By Ben Ochieng (Xinhua)    19:32, October 21, 2013
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He was only four years old when his father played his first Cricket World Cup in 1996 for Kenya.

Whereas he has benefitted from some of the best coaching available, Kenya's Irfan Karim is luckier than his grandfather Yusuf Karim and father Aasif Karim who became champions with little or no coaching assistance.

Kenyan international, Irfan (21), is currently ranked among the youngest players in the world and the sixth Kenyan to have scored a century.

He achieved the feat during a match between Kenya and Canada in Dubai on March 13 in which he steered Kenya to a second win in three days at the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League Championship.

Karim's knock included 11 boundaries from 137 balls during which he rotated the strike to include ensuring the Kenyan inning was built around him.

The left-handed batsman, leg-spinner and wicket-keeper, who is son to former Kenyan national team captain, Aasif, is following a sporting dynasty that was started by his grandfather Yusuf who was also a great tennis, cricket and volleyball player, although tennis became Yusuf's main focus.

Yusuf ruled the courts at the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa for 25 straight years which earned him the nickname "The King of Mombasa Courts" and at some point he ran out of opponents and found himself facing his 16 year old son in 1977.

Yusuf passed away in 209 and passed over the baton to Aasif who is also a veteran of three Cricket World Cups; 1996, 1999 and 2003.

Aasif also played tennis for Kenya and represented the country in Davies Cup tournaments.

"Cricket has become part of my life. When I am not playing, I am practicing, watching or simply thinking about it," Irfan told Xinhua in an interview over the weekend.

Tall and athletic like his father and grandfather, Irfan was two years ago aged 19 the youngest member of the Kenyan national team.

The 2003 Cricket World Cup became a defining moment for him, who as an 11-year old and with a good understanding of the game, watched as his father was awarded a gold watch as Man-of-the-Match, despite Kenya losing the match to Australia.

And soon after the family was aboard a flight to South Africa to watch Kenya play India in the semifinals - Kenya's best ever performance at the World Cup. It was also the same year when Irfan started laying inter-school under-11 cricket.

He played his first international cricket competition in 2007, when as a Form Two student at Braeburn High School, he was part of a squad of 13 players drawn from four Kenyan schools that made a tour to the United Arab Emirates under the Kenya/British curriculum schools under-19 program.

"It was an eye-opener and a great experience for the players and we were thrilled to play two matches in Abu Dhabi National Cricket Stadium."

The second of four siblings, Irfan was a star at Braeburn School, where he also excelled academically. During the Crown Solo under-16 cricket tournament, Irfan emulated his father by winning Man-of-the-Match award.

In December 2007, Irfan was selected to play at the African Cricket Association, East Africa under-15 tournament and the following year, he participated at the under-15 Clico International Tournament in West Indies where alongside seven other players, he received Most Valuable Player(MVP) award for having made 134 runs and taken four wickets.

Irfan was a member of the side that in August 2010 participated in the ubder-19 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in Namibia that featured seven other African teams.

Kenya finished second after hosts Namibia and Irfan was among four players awarded Man-of-the-Match. He registered a top score of 106 runs during their match against Zambia.

Recently, a documentary film featuring the story of their family as a sporting dynasty was nominated during the inaugural Tiger Paw Sports Film Festival that was held in New Delhi.

Irfan is currently studying for a degree in Sports Science and Management in Britain at Loughborough University near Leicester.

(Editor:DuMingming、Zhang Qian)

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