This has hardly been a year to hymn about for cricket, let alone Ugandan sport. But it is Cricket Cranes’ abject performance at the ICC World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand in January-February that opened an inquest into all forgotten ‘evils’ if you like.
Questions of what next with the current generation headed out were before us with few quality youngsters coming though. Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) CEO Justine Ligyalingi admits the disparity is a concern.
“It is not that there is no one coming through,” he says, “Only that there is a gulf in class between the two generations. As for now we are trying to match the quality of the current generation with the group coming through. That is the concern - the quality.”
Ligyalingi, an ICC Level 3 license coach trained in India and South Africa, was a teacher and cricket tutor at Mwiri when the Eastern Uganda powerhouse churned out one quality cricketer after another.
But while newly rejuvenated forces Jinja SS continue to steal Mwiri’s former thunder, and Mukono and Kololo step up to the plate, questions have been asked of what has gone wrong in most traditional schools that were uncontested talent conveyor belts.
“The issue of having a school administration dedicated to the game and a committed cricket teacher comes into play,” Ligyalingi explains.
“During my time at Mwiri, I was there full time and we had unreserved support from the administration.
“That now could be said of Jinja. They have two dedicated coaches; they have structures from S1 to S6, and a team in the First Division, where they use their students.
“That is the model we had at Mwiri. But having lost dedicated teachers without necessarily replacing them, it has been difficult for them.
“That is not to say Mwiri are gone. They, together with Budo, Kibuli and others continue to grow the game and we continue to support them.”
But how does UCA claim to continue supporting grass roots yet they are the same body that starved schools and development cricket of funding last year at the premise of facilitating the men’s national team?
National team funding
UCA invested heavily in the national team’s quest to, well – forget the high ladders of qualifying for the ICC World Cup, but to at least move to Division II, a venture that would tremendously increase funding from the world cricket body.
Actually, they spent about 60 per cent of their 2013/14 budget on the national team preparations and campaign, a campaign that saw Cricket Cranes failing to win a single match in New Zealand.
That display saw Uganda remain in Division III and miss out on increased funding in excesses of $1m (Shs2.475b) courtesy of the ICC High Performance Program (HPP).
Uganda and Div III members receive $330,000 (Shs825m) annually but now have access to a percentage increment to cater for HPPs.
Ligyalingi admits they spent in overdrive on the national team at the expense of grassroots development but says they are now going back to prioritizing youth development.
“As UCA we needed to invest in the national team to achieve a certain level so as to also increase funding from the ICC,” he tells SCORE.
“Our funding of the national team for the 2013/14 budget is actually the biggest ever.” Of the Shs1.2b budget for UCA in 2012, Shs563m was spent on the men’s national team.
But increased figures the following year saw over Shs1.1b of the Shs2.3b budget spent on the national team.
Back to basics
“We spent a lot on kitting, equipment, allowances on tours and build-up matches, paying a physio, coaches and assistants and acclimatization tours.