Cricket Cranes get ready to rumble

Cricket in their final hurdle at Lugogo. PHOTOS/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Off To West Indies.  Cricket Cranes fly out for their maiden ICC T20 World Cup sojourn on Wednesday.

From a two-week bootcamp in Jinja – Eastern Uganda in January, a 12-day training camp at Omtex I Can We Can (ICWC) Cricket Institute in Saphale, Mumbai – India, a debut high-performance tour to Galle, Sri Lanka, a bronze-medal sojourn at the 13th African Games in Accra, Ghana to another voyage to the Sri Lanka for two separate training camps in Galle and Colombo alongside several sessions at Lugogo Oval, Kinetic Arena and Fitness Junction Gymnasium, the five months of preparations are done and dusted.

Warm-ups on schedule

What remains will be just a couple of days acclimatisation in the Caribbean where they will play two warm-up matches against Namibia and Scotland on May 28 and May 30 respectively at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Trinidad and Tobago before taking the short flight to Georgetown, Guyana for the action proper.

The team was flagged off by a strong delegation that included State Minister of Sports Hon Peter Ogwang, National Council of Sports (NCS) Dr Patrick Bernard Ogwel, NCS Assistant General Secretary David Katende Ssemakula, UCA chairman Michael Nuwagaba and legendary Sam Walusimbi who played in the first ICC World Cup in 1975 at the Copper Chimney Restaurant in Lugogo which is housed by the NCS Head Offices.

Sports minister Ogwang (L)hands over a national flag to the Cricket Cranes captain Brian Masaba (C) as National Council of Sports (NCS) General Secretary (GS) Bernard Ogwel looks on. 

“Go do well,” said Ogwang. “We have your budget and we are going to fund this game because it is progressive,” added Ogwel. Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) announced a squad of 15 players and two travelling reserves to be captained by Brian Masaba and including legendary Frank Nsubuga, who at 43 will be the oldest player at ninth T20 World Cup, as the historical side that will make Uganda’s historical bow. Players like Roger Mukasa (Sri Lanka 2006), Juma Miyaji (West Indies 2022) and Ronald Lutaaya (West Indies 2022) have played at an ICC Under-19 World Cup before.

“We are an excited bunch of players. No feeling can replace how happy we are to be the chosen ones to represent the Pearl of Africa at its first time to play in a senior men’s World Cup,” said skipper Masaba, who has been part of the team since 2011.

“There have been several great captains of this side and many immensely talented players to walk the qualification journey only to fail by the slimmest of margins. In Windhoek last November, we believed that beating Zimbabwe put us in a good place where we were able to seize the initiative with wins over Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda in the subsequent matches to qualify alongside Namibia – the only team to beat us.”

Grateful skipper

About Uganda’s realistic hopes, Masaba was philosophical. “First and foremost, we would like to thank the UCA management as players. We have had the best-ever preparations. There is nothing more we can ask for. If you look at the rankings, you can see that Papua New Guinea are the ones closest to us. They are ranked 20th and we are 22nd. Many think it’s the game we should target and throw our all in it. But I can tell you that the guys are looking to throw more spanners in the works and get more gains even against the Test-playing nations. Expect us scripting a fairytale and some guys going ahead to get gigs in some of the biggest leagues in the world. That’s the plan.

Uganda have been drawn in Group C at the T20 World Cup alongside co-hosts West Indies, New Zealand, Afghanistan and PNG with the first match scheduled for June 4 against Afghanistan at 3.30am (EAT) in Guyana.