It is widely accepted that the 2001 ICC Trophy tournament is what put a spring in the collective step of Ugandan cricket. Ugandan cricket had long produced players that in full flow were punishing at any level. Readers of history will be quick to single out Sam Walusimbi, who played at the inaugural ICC World Cup in 1975. Yet despite heroics of towering figures such as him, cricket was largely seen as a mere footnote in Ugandan sport.
Ironically, one of the few times that a cricket player dominated the back pages of the dailies was in January of 2001. The story, though, wasn’t about a batsman attacking and defending as a situation demanded. It also wasn’t about some mesmeric bowling spell.
Kenneth Kamyuka, then the skipper of Uganda’s under-19 team, was accused of breaking a dusk-to-dawn curfew and proceeding to take part in what one of the dailies salaciously called a ‘sex romp’. Although the ‘sex romp’ wasn’t described in breathless detail, conventional wisdom suggested that the-then 18-year-old was a goner.
Six months later, the disgraced player was offered a second bite at the cherry. He was included in the travelling party to Toronto-Ontario, Canada for the ICC Trophy ahead of the more experienced Henry Osinde.
The national selectors knew that they were taking a calculated risk. They nevertheless insisted that Kamyuka had paid his dues and would be an ornament to the game. The selectors also remained devoted to the idea that grit and preparation could beat even the longest odds while in Canada.
Fairytale in Canada
High hopes, however, carried such an unnecessary risk. Ranked 21 out of the 24 entities taking part in the ICC Trophy, it’s difficult to imagine that Cricket Cranes players were blind to the hazards that awaited them. The opening match against Malaysia on June 29, 2001 was such a roller-coaster. Batting first, Uganda lost its first wicket after 45 minutes when Lawrence Ssematimba feathered a catch behind. An hour later, five wickets had fallen with just 74 runs on the board.
When Kamyuka took up his role as a No.10 batsman, Uganda was grappling with much more than a hiccup. Only a stroke of genius would save the Cricket Cranes from disaster.
A run short of reaching three figures, Uganda had already lost eight wickets. The glum hope was for vice-captain Richard Mwami to bat the Cricket Cranes to a position of respectability. Kamyuka, though, was intent on batting astonishingly rather than respectably. After the match, he said: “Although Mwami is a senior player in our team, I asked him to give me the strike against the slow bowlers. He refused me initially, but I insisted!”
Uganda’s fastest centurion
In a display of controlled hitting with a Caribbean flavour to it, Kamyuka lit up Eglinton Flats with an audacious century. He reached three figures off the last delivery of Uganda’s innings. It was the 54th ball he had faced. The batting carnage, which include eight sixes and four boundaries, saw Kamyuka find cow corner, flick contemptuously and launch the odd biff straight down the ground. Setting a victory target of 224, Malaysia folded for 159. It was rather fitting that Kamyuka picked the final wicket.
Uganda went on to beat an East and Central Africa outfit by six wickets on the back of Joel Olweny’s well-paced half century. Cricket Cranes batsmen then took great delight in taking the aerial route against Argentina, savaging anything pitched up to them.
They clubbed a collective 10 sixes and 25 fours en route to posting 303/5. Junior Kwebiiha, who would later captain Uganda to a famous win in a Three-Day Game away in Windhoek to Namibia, opened his shoulders and helped himself to a destructive 110-ball 109. Argentina stuttered to 116 in response.
Even when the batting did not quite click, take in the rain-affected match against France, Uganda still managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Benjamin Musoke’s measured 49 helped Uganda set France a victory target of 162 runs from 42 overs on July 4. Despite France’s best attempts, the run-chase filled its faithful with inexpressible anguish and terror. Kwebiiha and Frank Nsubuga split five wickets as Uganda won by 86 runs.
Uganda completed the group stage unbeaten after coasting to a seven-wicket win over Israel. There was a change in the side with former captain Henry Okecho and hard-hitting all-rounder Simon Nsubuga making their bows against France, but it didn’t deter the Cricket Cranes from reaching the victory target of 154 without breaking a sweat.
Opening batsmen Charles Lwanga (RIP) and Olweny put on 57 runs inside the opening 55 minutes of the run chase. Frank Nsubuga then showed a wide range of strokes while batting at one-drop. He set up a superb chase, which multi-talented Tendo Mbazzi and Richard Okia, who was the baby of the team, finished with aplomb.
A bridge too far
Unfortunately, the playoff round proved a bridge too far for Uganda. Batting first against United Arab Emirates (UAE), it did not take long for the Cricket Cranes’ authority to melt away. Ssematimba’s two-ball duck pretty much set the tone. There were three more ducks to report about, including a golden one for Kwebiiha. Only the old, trusted hand of John Lubia delivered. The Cricket Cranes skipper stroked a battling 76 as Uganda set a victory target of 155.
Kamyuka and Okia picked two wickets apiece during the defence, but this didn’t stop UAE from winning by five wickets. The loss didn’t stain the script as Uganda finished a respectable 10th out of the 24 nations. That impeccable show remains arguably one of the most talked about shift from the men’s team to-date.
HOW THE FAIRYTALE RUN UNFOLDED
Uganda 223/8 (50 ov)
Malaysia 159 (42.3 ov)
K. Kamyuka 100 (54)
J. Kwebiiha 1/29 (10)
Uganda won by 64 runs
East & Central 170 (40.3/44 ov)
Uganda 173/4 (37.4/44 ov)
J. Olweny 59 (84)
J. Kwebiiha 5/22 (8.3)
Uganda won by 6 wickets (with 38 balls remaining)
Uganda 303/5 (50 ov)
Argentina 116 (35.4 ov)
J. Kwebiiha 109 (110)
J. Kwebiiha 2/31 (8)
Uganda won by 187 runs
Uganda 166 (39/42 ov)
France 75/9 (42/42 ov)
B. Musoke 49 (73)
J. Kwebiiha 3/14 (7)
Uganda won by 187 runs
Israel 153/9 (50 ov)
Uganda 154/3 (30.4 ov)
C. Lwanga 47 (73)
R. Okia 2/18 (9)
Uganda won by 7 wickets (with 116 balls remaining)
Uganda 154 (46.3/50 ov)
UAE 155/5 (41.5/50 ov)
J. Lubia 76 (119)
K. Kamyuka 2/25 (10)
UAE won by 5 wickets (with 49 balls remaining)
WHERE ARE THEY
1. John Lubia (captain)
When his wife got employment in the US as a doctor, Lubia relocated to Washington DC, too, where he works as a telecom engineer. A solid batsman in his heyday.
2. Tendo Mbazzi
An Information Technology (I.T) specialist with the Bank of Uganda. Mbazzi, son of the legendary Sam Walusimbi, is arguably the best all-rounder of his generation.
3. Kenneth Kamyuka
Touted as the Best Cricketer Uganda has ever produced, Kamyuka is currently working as an Uber driver in Toronto and living as a family man with a one-year-old daughter Aleksander. Won literally everything and also represented Canada
4. Zerubabel Junior Kwebiiha
Only returned from working abroad in Zambia last year and currently works as the Chief Commercial Officer at Fenix International and is also a founding member at EzeeMoney. Kwebiiha is rated as one of the best Cricket Cranes captains.
5. Joel Olweny
Moved to Canada after 2009 and currently works as an Estates and Site Clearing Manager at country’s West Coast. Once in a while, he turns in a shift for Brampton Masters. He could bat any number, bowl both medium pace and off spin as well as field anywhere on the park.
6. Richard Mwami (vice-captain)
The CEO of EzeeMoney Limited. Mwami is fervently remembered for holding his end and keeping Kamyuka in check during that crucial win against Malaysia. He is also a former Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) chairman.
7. Charles Lwanga (RIP)
Was killed by iron-bar wielding goons on the night of November 2, 2010 as he trudged back home from Kayembe village, off Gayaza Road. He rests in Nabusanke, along Masaka Road. Tireless opening bowler and batsman in his heyday.
8. Richard Okia
Currently working as a Director Advisory at Crowe AIA- a Global Accounting & Advisory Firm. Enjoyed a fruitful national career until 2015.
9. Frank Nsubuga
He is the last man standing having made his debut in 1994 and still at it with an envious record of representing Uganda in each of the last four decades.
10. Benjamin Musoke
Co-owner and Managing Director at Blink Logistics - a clearing and forwarding company. Benzo played every sport to distinction and plays for Aziz Damani once in a while.
11. Simon Nsubuga
Nicknamed Zungu because of skin complexion, Nsubuga is Senior Associate Director at Rider Levett Bucknall in Doha, Qatar working as a Contracts Manager and Cost Consultant. He was powerful and hard-hitting all-rounder.
12. Henry Okecho
The outgoing UCA Development Officier is currently into private business. He also lectures at Kyambogo University in the Sports Science department and recently purchased a Crystal Engraving business in Kampala.
13. Lawrence Ssematimba (wicket-keeper)
The young brother of Frank Nsubuga last represented the nation in 2017. He is currently in UCA’s Under-19 Boys Coaching set-up and still plays club cricket.
14. Keith Legesi
Was the reserve wicketkeeper of the side and didn’t get to play many. Legesi is an ICT expert but we last heard of him managing a construction plant and construction company in Gulu.
1. Henry Osinde
Moved to Canada after 2001 and represented them in several ICC events. The epitome of his career was playing two ICC Cricket World Cups in 2007 & 2011 to become the third Ugandan to play at the big stage after Walusimbi and Senior Presidential Advisor John Nagenda who played in the inaugural 1975 edition. He is currently that Assistant Coach of Canada.
2. Henry Kato
Media reports indicate that he was controversially dropped then and Rastaman, as goes his petname, never recovered. He is currently working as a private youth development coach for cricket and tennis.
Coach Andrew Meya:
Worked in several UCA coaching and management set-up roles, Meya is currently working as a Programme Coordinator at Kyambogo University.
Team Manager: Justine Ligyalingi
Having worked in several coaching and management roles with UCA, Ligyalingi’s star has continued to shine as he is currently the ICC Africa Development Officer. Also an ICC Level 3 coach, trained in India and South Africa.
Umpire: Francis Ekalungar
Died in a cruel manner after he was burnt to ashes and dumped near well in Kajjansi in January 2018. He travelled as the team umpire and played for ACC in his hey day.
Team Doctor: Dr Kato Sebbaale
A former national team batsman in the early 1980s, Dr Sebbaale is the CEO of Case Hospital in Kampala and a gastroenterologist.