Coach Tikolo rallying Cranes to turn corner

Sunday December 8 2019

Shahzad Ukani batting against Bermuda on

Shahzad Ukani batting against Bermuda on Friday. Uganda won the game by seven wickets. PHOTO BY ICC 

Cricket Cranes coach Steve Tikolo is neither one to get ahead of himself nor one to quickly heap praises in heat-of-the-moment scenarios.

Since the Kenyan legend returned for his second stint as Uganda head coach in 2017, wins have been hard to come-by and more so brilliant individual performances.

And in the aftermath of the Cricket Cranes picking their third consecutive victory at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B tournament - a comfortable 7-wicket win over Bermuda at Oman Cricket Academy Turf 1 in Al Amerat, Team Uganda’s camp has been receiving non-stop congratulatory messages.

The messages have been awash with anecdotes of praise and have flown in from Uganda cricket’s supporters across the universe with many fanatics pumping up the volume further with sensational one-liners like; ‘World Cup, Here We Come Uganda!’ on their social media pages.

But Tikolo has been super quick to pour ice-frozen water on the fans excitement. “We are not yet there,” said the man who played in five World Cups (1996-2011).

“We are now doing somethings in the right way. The bowling has been our trump card before as it has won us many games. But now we are batting out our 50 overs and get scores in the regions of 200. Soon we will get 300.

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“The new culture in the set-up has also helped as the team management has asked players to follow a certain script and whoever fails to do so is omitted from the set-up. For us, it is the team first and not just people coming to play their individual games. That’s the reason why we zeroed in on only 12-16 players in preparation for this tournament.

“This (success now) hasn’t come overnight but I am happy with what I am seeing so far. We have several areas to improve including mental toughness before we can turn the corner. For now, we remain a major work in progress. We have to stay calm,” preached Tikolo in an interview with Sunday Monitor.

In the victory against Bermuda on Friday, Tikolo offered special praise for returning top-order batsman Shahzad Kamal (86*) and Ronak Patel (72), who featured in a 168-run partnership for the third wicket - arguably the biggest in Uganda’s history ever - as Uganda chased down Bermuda’s target of 208 in 40.1 overs.

“Shahzad has not been available since 2017 because of work commitments. But he has showed that he is an X-Factor in any team he plays for - no wonder he got the Man of Match award. For Ronak, he has showed a strong mentality to bounce-back with two 50s after scoring zero against Jersey,” said Tikolo.

And whereas the praises continue to pour in, the Cricket Cranes must indeed keep their feet grounded.

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