What you need to know:
- Certainly, he seems to know how immortal he has lived his life with mere mortals. And he’s happy to deflect any anticipated lyrical-waxing that anyone could have planned to lavishly pour out. Unfortunately, what happens and what he manages to do is set you up for his ‘sugar-coated’ ambush.
A humorous behemoth of a man. No one can beat him at anything he sets out to do. An eloquent speaker with animations that seem choreographed, this colossus is always looking to make convo with lesser persons and bowl them over with anecdote-filled praises – for whatever small feat they have been able to achieve in their lives and careers.
Certainly, he seems to know how immortal he has lived his life with mere mortals. And he’s happy to deflect any anticipated lyrical-waxing that anyone could have planned to lavishly pour out. Unfortunately, what happens and what he manages to do is set you up for his ‘sugar-coated’ ambush.
Man of no marginal magnitude
Samwiri Walusimbi is a lifetime experience whenever you come into his midst. God knows as much. He doesn’t give you two wizards like him in your lifetime. For the cricket fraternity, they have lived with this art of purified work that is Walusimbi for more than six decades without ever-deserving so.
Athletics and soccer’s loss was cricket’s gain as Walusimbi chose the willow and leather over sprints and the beautiful game.
The soccer fanatics of yesteryear’s golden generation nicknamed and still refer to him as Romario after the Brazilian great because of his love for the Samba Boys, his particular clinical finishing prowess in all spheres of life and love for KCCA’s Kawowo (read soft-on-the-eye) style of football especially during Jack Ibaale’s days as manager-cum-chairman for the star-studded Kasasiro Boys.
But cricket is such a daredevil! When you’re hooked once, you’re gone forever. Samji is what his cricket peers and opposition baptised and still call him from those years back in the 50s when he tormented them from the schools, university to the club level.
Bhai for many
A quick glance at his craft, the Asians thought Walusimbi was masquerading as an Indian in a black-man’s skin. A dashing batsman gifted with an array of strokes, bowler of immeasurable line and length be it as a right-arm medium pacer or left-arm orthodox spinner and the sharpest of fielders in either the slip cordon or outfield that was blessed with an astute mind.
The Asians saw him as one of their own and forthrightly named him Samjibhai. Bhai means brother in Hindi and it is what many Indians add to names in a bid to strengthen friendships, trust and bond.
Samjibhai had a full house of Asians, including former Ugandan internationals; Uganda Cricket Association Trustee Ranmal Keshwala, business mogul Mukesh Shukla, Ali Abbas and Nehal Bibodi to celebrate the day the fraternity honoured him for his contribution to the Gentleman’s Game on February 26 at the Lugogo Cricket Oval.
In an unfamiliar role, Samjibhai didn’t play but his sons, and nephew rapper Daniel Kigozi, aka Navio, took to the field. The organisers thought he had nothing to prove! He just did the ceremonial pre-match flick of the coin as the captains of two teams named after him; Norman Batanda (Samji’s XI) and Elly ‘Sober’ Mukasa (Wallas’ XI) called to either bat or bowl first. Samji’s XI won the day’s honours by 38 runs in a 17-over duel.
Man of all seasons
But on a day that had arguably the biggest crowd any cricket match has had in Uganda since hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division III in 2017, Walusimbi more than made time for everyone present.
Offering pep talk to both teams at the beginning of their respective innings, reminiscing the good old days with the non-playing elderly statesmen and women, including Uganda Olympic Committee chief Don Rukare, former Uganda Investment Authority executive director Maggie Kigozi – his sister in law – playing some games with his grandies and chipping in bottomless banter to a good shot, and a cheeky dismissal to many of his elite products that played on the day.
One speaker after another spoke highly of the titan living in our times as one that deserves all the roses he was getting. But what everyone didn’t see coming was the emotional bit that had Walusimbi fight back tears in vain during his powerful speech and having to deflect the praise and instead said; “The day is all about celebrating cricket and not me or my legacy.”
Understandably, it is the game that has given many in the fraternity the comfortable lives they’re enjoying but for the former elite player, stylish captain, administrator, coach and game’s consultant, typical Walusimbi wasn’t about to blow his own trumpet.
Trying to play second fiddle
“I was very fortunate that my brother Dan Kigozi taught me the game at an early age. Before P1, I had a rough idea of what the game was all about,” disclosed Walusimbi.
“I was also lucky to play in the first ICC World Cup in England 1975 with John Nagenda (senior media advisor to President Museveni). I’ve been privileged to witness classy batsmen in my time like Yona Wapakhabulo (RIP) and Paul Nsibuuka (former NCS Board Member). I think Nehal (Chairman Selectors) was a better batter than me.”
It was a surreal moment as and when he spoke from deep down his heart.
“After Asians left in 1972, I had to go across the schools to pass on this game to young ones. We had one cricket club, Africa Cricket Club, and we had to raise the standard from club to the national level and my highlight is that I was one of those who brought the game to the national level,” he said.
“The standard of the game has improved a lot, it’s much higher than our days due to more training and facilities than what we used to have. This sport is destined for greater things, if it’s managed well; and this will be done through good administration. There is no gate collection so most funds come from abroad (ICC), so that money must be used for it’s right purposes,” advised the 74-year-old.
“When we started girls cricket, we didn’t know we would reach this far. Credit to the girls that have stuck to the game and nurtured others. I would also like to thank in a special way whoever has given back to this game. It is the way to go.
“Thanks to Kisementi Jazz for organising this day and for bringing so many people here as well as big partners like Tusker Malt, Tents4U, Coca-cola, Case Hospital, Just BBQ and UCA,” wrapped up Walusimbi, arguably Uganda’s greatest ever cricketer . DJ Ssese turned the tables till late and one thing was certain; the fraternity was happy to have honoured a true living legend of the game.
1948: Walusimbi is born
1954: Starts playing cricket
1973: Captains Uganda
1975: Plays at ICC World Cup in England as part of East & Central Africa XI.
1977: Forms Wanderers Cricket Club with friends.
1986-1997: Plays in several ICC Trophy editions
1993: Retires from active playing at the age of 45.
2000: Elected chairman of UCA but wrangles dominated his era.
2006: Coaches Baby Cricket Cranes at ICC U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
2007: Coaches Cricket Cranes to victory at ICC World Cricket League Division III in Australia.
2015: Uspa Lifetime/Legendary Achievement Award.
2022: Heads delegation for Baby Cricket Cranes at ICC U-19 World Cup in West Indies.