Cricket Cranes dedicate African crown to ‘ill’ coaches,  fans

What you need to know:

  • It took the prize giving ceremony for the rest of the teams to literally notice that Uganda’s big men – coaches – were not in attendance as the team picked its winners’ medals and trophy.

When Uganda lost the opening clash of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Twenty20 World Cup Africa Finals to Kenya by one run on November 17, many naysayers were baring their fangs saying another capitulation was on the cards in Rwanda after the team had previously done well to conjure up 11 successive wins in Twenty20 Internationals over the calendar year.

That result did not just peg back Uganda’s pride where they were ranking third on the log of unbeaten runs, just one win away from joint leaders Afghanistan and Romania on 12, it also claimed numbers in their dug out with both their coaches; Laurence Mahatlane (pictured) and Jackson Ogwang getting admitted at the nearby Dream Medical Centre Hospital in Kicukiro District, Kigali City after being diagnosed  with heavy bouts of malaria.

The tournament was always going to be harder for Uganda going forward and it was justified with the Cricket Cranes laboured 12-run win - courtesy of Duckworth & Lewis Method – to Nigeria in their afternoon encounter at Gahanga Stadium as the team fought to hold back their evident emotions with a poor body language in the field.

Comeback masterplan
A tough and yet honest team-meeting that followed at the team’s residence in Hotel La Palisse, Nyamata did proper self-reflection as the team made a resolution to put their bodies on the line to  win the championship and qualify for the global championship as a reward for their tireless coaches.

When Uganda turned up on Match Day No.2, they were different animals from the ones that had played limping cricket on Day 1 with comfortable 8-wicket wins over previously unbeaten Tanzania and Nigeria. 

No one could further sense that the gigantic physique of Mahatlane and Ogwang’s towering frame were amiss as Uganda engaged another bigger gear to scoop the African title with similar 6-wicket victories over Tanzania and Kenya - in virtual final of the double round-robin format showpiece on Match Day 3 (November 20).

It took the prize giving ceremony for the rest of the teams to literally notice that Uganda’s big men – coaches – were not in attendance as the team picked its winners’ medals and trophy.

“We were able to do this (earn victory) as a team because we have come a long way as a team. We had a core of leadership that took charge including me, the vice-captain Deus Muhumuza, senior player Frank Nsubuga and senior batsman Ronak Patel,” disclosed skipper Brian Masaba.

Coaches and fans love
“We worked hard to remember our processes and KPI’s that our coaches preach to us every day. Drawing inspiration from them got us through. It is only fair that we dedicate the trophy to our coaches and fans. The love from the fans has been incredible. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for the fans and hopefully we have given them some joy with this win.”

Recovering Mahatlane, who stayed back in Kigali for his last dose of medication before flying back home yesterday night paid tribute to his troops.

“I was very touched.  It makes me emotional because as I always say it’s about the players. You will never see me wear their earned colours out of respect for them. Systems work and it is not dependent on any one . If people do their jobs, follow the processes then the rest falls into place,” said the 45-year-old former South Africa U-19 coach.

His assistant Ogwang is delighted that the boys found energy in their tank reserves to fight for the future of their careers, too.

Future sorted
“Coach (Mahatlane) could hardly walk in the hospital but he walked over to my bed for a hug and we were screaming on top of our voices in the ward when we won the final match,” relieved Ogwang.

“The Kenyans thought that our boys were playing just another normal derby. But this one was deciding their future as playing at the Global Qualifier will win them contract renewals. The boys have shown us that they know their past and this journey can take us to bigger places.”

Uganda are now the fourth ranked country in Africa after Test-playing South Africa and Zimbabwe alongside recently elevated Namibia.

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