Finally, cricket gods set Uganda free

Tuesday January 7 2020

Shahzad was outstanding for Uganda in the T20 W

Shahzad was outstanding for Uganda in the T20 World Cup Qualifiers at Lugogo Cricket Oval. PHOTO BY JOHN BATANUDDE. 

By Darren Allan Kyeyune


kampala. For long moments, fans and even some players felt Uganda’s consistent failures at the continental and global front of cricket in the second half of the last decade didn’t deserve space in the big conversation room.
At Lugogo Cricket Oval, where most cricket lovers in the country often converge, it would have been easier to discuss Virat Kolhi’s classy batting when India is chasing an ODI score or Alaistar Cook’s Test career for England than Davis Karashani’s retirement or break, whatever one may call it!

Sorry start!
Uganda’s cricket was soaked in the bucket of failure and yet again, the fraternity started 2019 in a low mood after the senior men’s national team had humbled by the wood spoon picked at the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Oman in November, 2018.
It was a very testing time for the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) executive ahead of an elective AGM in January.

Here, incumbent, Bashir ‘Badu’ Ansasiira needed to assure a 16-vote electoral college that things could change as the Cricket Cranes’ performance often determines how much the sport gets from father figure International Cricket Council (ICC).

And achieving that did not come on a silver platter as the poll split the fraternity on grounds of Ansasiira representing the youth and his rival Paul Nsibuka for the old guards.

Ansasiira grits, passes UCA test
The duo each polled eight votes for a rare stalemate at Kati Kati on January 26, the same day the assembly refused to adopt the audited books of accounts.

UCA Trustee Stephen Luswata advised a Special General Meeting (SGM) to be held to split the two and, backed up by Article XX, Section 4 of the UCA constitution, Ansasiira finally winning 11-5 on February 16.

Ansasiira’s victory over his former head of finance for another two-year term did not transcend to the Cricket Cranes though.

One-run loss, blues at Africa T20
The demons of the game yet again overpowered coach Steve Tikolo’s side in a more painful manner on home soil at the ICC Men’s Africa Twenty20 Cup Finals in May.

Uganda missed out on the top two places following a 42-run loss to Namibia and then a hurting one-run loss to Kenya thereby failing to qualify to the ICC Global Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE.

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The next months of cricket would hurt as opinion remained divided within the would-be headquarters in Lugogo and a vast number of platforms particularly on social media.

The rebuilding process is something Tikolo and an ever-changing technical committee had always carried out but they needed something new about it all.

Kenyan legend Tikolo, who reportedly had walked away from the job but only called back by UCA, instead opted to keep his circle small of players for long spells in Kyambogo ahead of the ICC World Cup Challenge League (WCCL) B round 1.

Finally, the gods set Uganda free
Probably it was also a blessing in disguise for the WCCL event to be moved from August because of the persistent protests in Hong Kong to Oman, one with the not-so-good memories but rather familiar for Uganda. Somehow, Tikolo and his assistant Jackson Ogwang gathered their pieces together and after some mini-purification with a Tour Zimbabwe, the cricket gods interestingly set Uganda free in Oman.

A jigged Cricket Cranes with new captain Brian Masaba put up its best show in five years by flooring every opponent of the five that in Jersey, Kenya, Bermuda, Italy and Hong Kong to finish top with 10 points and lead the route to the 2023 ICC ODI World Cup that will be in India.
Kamal the man, Agamire arrives
Whereas opener Roger Mukasa just couldn’t click throughout, assistant captain Arnold Otwani got some steam at the end but it is the trio of Ronak Patel, Dinesh Nakrani and Kamal Shahzad that had the team home with the bat.

Left-hander Shahzad put up a star performance by anchoring the innings to near perfection with 275 runs in six innings in Al Amerat.
With the ball, Bilal Hassun’s medium pace yielded 10 wickets, veteran Frank Nsubuga collected eight maidens and got seven wickets for an economy of 3.28.

Even if debutant Richard Agamire played two matches, he was a big talking point especially with the 52 dot balls he made from 10 overs in the last match (2/26) against Hong Kong. And one could state a case that Tikolo and his charges deserved more than the $7000 (Shs25.7m) token they got (or are yet to get) from UCA.

Local cricket stalls…
Back on the local scene, the National Men’s Division One League could not just end because a number of fixtures were not met either because of unavailability of venues or, Aziz Damani’s absence too.

For venues, UCA was left with egg-on-face and probably, they must now find a home after years of empty talk as Lugogo and Kyambogo venue managements preferred other events like concerts to weekend cricket.

For Damani, the two-time defending champions are yet to step onto an oval to play a game in the second round because about nine of their XI was engaged with Tikolo in preparations for Oman.

Damani rules ladies’ front
On the ladies’ front, Damani ladies were a class apart from everyone, retaining the Mehta Premier League title in April thanks to an all-round performance from Immaculate Nakisuyi, Rita Musamali and Mary Kagoya. Nakisuyi was MVP with 183 runs and 22 wickets.

Damani ladies against were flawless in 50-Over format, also retaining that title by winning all their 10 matches with Sylvia Kinyua making 267 runs from seven innings.

Janet Mbabazi of Soroti Challengers as well deserves a mention as she finished as best batter with 277 runs from nine matches. Also in the T20s where Soroti lost the final by nine wickets, Mbabazi was best batter too with 270 runs.

In Schools Cricket, record champions Busoga College Mwiri claimed their 18th Boys’ title after beating St John’s High School by 65 runs in August. Much of that delight hinged on the trio of MVP Hassan Mpanuka, Ronald Opio and Cyrus Kakuru.

The Girls’ Week final was even a closer contest where Olila High School defended their score of 86-5 to defeat fellow Soroti side Light SS by seven runs. Olila’s Esther Illokur was MVP with 153 runs and 13 dismissals.

dkyeyune@ug.nationmedia.com

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