Shortly after Maurice Odumbe appeared on a live interview with renowned journalist Jeff Koinange, in January 2015, there was an outpouring of emotions across the Kenyan blogosphere. The former king of Kenyan cricket was a pale shadow of his former self as he broke down, revealing how life had taken an abrupt U-turn on him.
And in yet another interview in 2018, Odumbe reflected on how he had fallen from savoring life from the fast lane to living in abject poverty.
“From living in Loresho in a 5 bedroom house to living in a Thika Road estate I never thought I would live in, from grace to grass, from driving BMWs, 4WDs to bodabodas,” Odumbe said.
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Odumbe’s rise to global recognition
Odumbe was born in 1969 and attended Dr. Aggrey Primary School and Upper Hill Secondary school. His passion to play cricket was so great that he would improvise a wood carving to use as a cricket bat during his teenage days.
Back in the early days of cricket introduction into Kenya, it was mainly seen as a sport reserved for whites and Asians. However, Kenneth Odumbe, the brother to Maurice introduced him to the sport as he went on to establish himself into a superstar.
It was in 1996 world cup that Odumbe’s mastery came into action as Kenya pulled a surprise win over West Indies. He was named the man of the match.
In the 2003 world cup, Odumbe played a critical role in helping Kenya reach the semifinals. He was simply the Kenyan team poster boy who attracted thousands of adoring fans to the stadium. According to Odumbe, the Nairobi Gymkhana stadium would fill to 40000 capacity, with prominent persons such as Uhuru Kenyatta and Gideon Moi always on the stands.
During his prime time, Odumbe made millions as he got well paid even as various sponsors such as Safaricom partnered with him. It is said that his majestic flamboyance would see him purchase luxurious vehicles and even take holiday trips to Jamaica.
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In 2004, Odumbe was suspended from cricket for a period of 5 years after he was found guilty of inappropriate contact with a known Indian bookmaker identified as Jagdish Sobha. A ruling by a Zimbabwean judge appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) found him guilty of 12 counts of corruption
According to Odumbe, he only knew Sodha worked in the film industry but had no clue about him being a bookmaker.
Odumbe’s ex-wife, Katherine Maloney with whom he had two children testified against him. She claimed that Odumbe had at one time sent her to receive $10000 from the bookmaker at a Nairobi hotel. Additionally, Maloney who is of Canadian descent said that Odumbe had revealed to her that Sodha was a ‘gangster.’
“I was very unhappy about the relationship because Maurice had said Sodha was a gangster and I did not want any friendship with Sodha because I disapproved of this match-fixing business,” said Maloney.
Picking himself up
After the ban, Odumbe struggled to pick himself up. He reached rock bottom and was reported to struggling to even put food on his table. According to Standard Media, Odumbe had sometime back resorted to giving his phone to a shylock in order to get a Ksh 1k loan just to get things moving.
In 2018, Odumbe was appointed the Kenya batsman coach but his stint lasted only a few months. He lamented at how the team would intentionally leave him behind during various trips on false allegations that he was unwell. Sadly, Odumbe was even treated as an outcast by the team.
“During the latest trip to South Africa I was dropped at the 11th hour with repeated claims that if I went then the team might not win,” he said in a 2018 interview.