Cricket: How Uganda broke World Cup jinx

Cricket Cranes celebrate qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. PHOTO/ ICC AFRICA MEDIA

What you need to know:

  • Patience & Perseverance. The easier way out for UCA was to give up on their flagship team – The Cricket Cranes after many emotional-sapping near misses. Instead they blindly followed their hearts, injected more into the unit, believed and the reward has finally come with qualification to the T20 World Cup set to unfold in the West Indies and the USA next year.

Simply put! Uganda’s unchartered journey to the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup in June next year in West Indies and the USA is a script of triumph.

The naysayers had every reason to state that this was going to be another of those campaigns; that excite in early days but collapse in a heap at the business end because Uganda always found itself in such deep sloughs at every campaign.

Since Uganda stopped playing as part of an East African Combined XI in the early 1990s at ICC-sanctioned events and earned its full Associate Member status in 1998, the journey has thrilled but also left pangs of pain in many hearts.

Uganda's cricket odyssey

Uganda’s first bow at an ICC event was at the ICC Trophy in Canada 2001 where the Ugandans became the talk of Toronto Maple Leafs with a brand of fearless cricket. Having started ranked 22nd, the Cricket Cranes finished 10th after falling to United Arab Emirates by five wickets in the playoffs.

But from less than one percent of the population understanding what cricket was all about, the gentleman’s game won itself several column inches in the leading dailies and on television and forthwith bowled over many fans, then.

There was no turning back for Uganda Cricket Association as they worked to spread the game with mass participation programmes like the Mini Cricket Development Programme (MCDP), Schools Development Programme (SDP), a strong National League, an U-19 & U-23 structure as part of the development sides.

These programmes bore fruit and wowed many sponsors at the time and with proper accountability UCA won itself many awards and admirers as a model sports association with a blueprint for many others to copy.

Funding & structures

The ICC funding, too, grew as Uganda continued to tick many boxes on the former’s scorecard. Even when the leadership changed, rebuilding on the works of the previous chairman one was the order of the day.

Even when the infightings and squabbles happened, UCA were not intent on washing their dirty linen in the public with the elders of the game always convening quickly to sort out things amicably and forge forward.

Uganda’s SDP birthed the first real superstars of the game like Benjamin Musoke, Tendo Mbazzi, Simon Nsubuga, John Lubia, Solomon Sseruga, Sam Ssimbwa, Guy Kimbowa Lutaaya, Richard Ssempa and David Meya among others who represented Team East Africa while still secondary school students.

On the other hand the MCDP earthed raw talent that grew into Uganda’s first celebrated U-19 National Team that was captained by Clive Kyangungu Bigirwa. Coincidentally that team earned qualification to its World Cup after an African & East Asia Pacific Qualifier hosted at the Wanderers Sports Ground in Windhoek, Namibia in 2003 – the same venue that the Cricket Cranes sealed their qualification 20 years later - earlier this week.

That side played in their first ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in 2004 (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and sealed a back-to-back appearance in 2006 (Colombo, Sri Lanka) whereas the current generation earned their stripes with a post-Covid appearance at the 2022 edition in the West Indies – which is also the host of 2024 Men’s edition - the destination where the Cricket Cranes will make their historic bow.

The 2003 U-19 qualifier has one survival in left-arm seamer Charles Waiswa – who is the current Team Manager whereas the 2022 edition has young wicketkeeper Cyrus Kakuru. The two are privileged to have been part of both history moments at fitting times.  

Substantial funding from ICC has provided a solid foundation, enabling the cricketing body to nurture talent, create a conducive environment for growth and improve infrastructure, although a lot more can be done for the latter.

Brains at work

The story of success has many fathers and so is Ugandan cricket. From William Kamanyi, Andrew Meya, Tom Tikolo, Henry Okecho, Sam Walusimbi, Francis Otieno, Mohammed Barney to Conrad Shukri, Martin Suji, Johan Rudolph, Davis Turinawe, Peter Kirsten, Steve Tikolo and Laurence Mahatlane, every gaffer put a block to the unbreakable unit that the Cricket Cranes have become.

Uganda have played over 50 T20Is and were only second to India, over the last year, globally in the build-up to the Windhoek event. The number of internal games had also risen to at least 180 in the last two years hence proof that the team has been in a competitive space and in pressure situations more often than its rivals in Namibia.

Game time is gold dust and it carved a pathway for the youngest gaffer Jackson Ogwang, 33, to count on as his hungry-for-glory troops showed while bouncing back after an error-filled 6-wicket loss to Namibia and to topple African powerhouse Zimbabwe in convincing fashion by 33 runs. Each match in the build-up to the qualifier has truly been a stepping stone towards excellence.

Defined team roles

With players adapting quickly, it has helped the team gel well. Before Uganda used to heavily use the term all-rounders with the selectors looking to pick teams with guys who could do a bit of both bowling and batting. It was a big recipe for disaster and failure - which duly happened. 

But going with specialists in the modern day game has helped everyone do his job. Riazat Ali Shah knows he’s finisher, Dinesh Nakrani and Alpesh Ramjani are the destroyers, the trio of Ronak Patel, Simon Ssesazi and Roger Mukasa must lay a solid platform with the bat, skipper Brian Masaba must run the traffic, vice-captain Kenneth Waiswa must offer balance to the side whereas Bilal Hassun, veteran ace Frank Nsubuga, leftie Henry Ssenyondo, David Wabwire and Jonathan Ssebanja were in charge of bowling duties.

Uganda’s fielding levels were not at their peak as justified by the seven gilt-edged misses in the loss to Namibia but it provided a good wake-up call early in the tournament and the coaches worked overtime to fine tune things. 

Learning from the past

The ability to turn half-chances into breakthroughs, creating a dynamic environment where every run was fiercely contested helped the bowling unit hunt in a pack like wolves. A return of 38 wickets in six T20 matches justifies that Uganda’s pace and spin accuracy was a lethal combination.

The inclusion of Namibian legend Craig Williams as a National Team Consultant for the campaign cannot be understated. It was a masterstroke as he was familiar with the local conditions having played for the national side – Richelieu Eagles – for the last 16 years.

In a nutshell, Cricket Cranes journey to their first-ever World Cup qualification is a tale of resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of a dream that seemed elusive in the past. Past near-misses and heartbreaks fueled their determination, turning the pain of previous setbacks into the driving force behind their historic triumph.

The stage is now set for the world to witness Uganda's cricketing prowess on the grandest stage of them all. But some heavy-lifting, fearless and bold decision-making must be done in the build-up.

Captain Brian Masaba in his bowling stride. PHOTO/ ICC AFRICA MEDIA


Full Results For Uganda

November 22:

Tanzania 99/7 Uganda 105/2

Uganda won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

November 24:

Uganda 114/10 Namibia 116/4

Namibia won by 6 wickets (with 18 balls remaining)

November 26:

Zimbabwe 136/7 Uganda 138/5

Uganda won by 5 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)

November 27:

Results – Yesterday

Nigeria 99/10 Uganda 100/1

Uganda won by 9 wickets (with 15 balls remaining)

November 29:

Uganda 162/5 Kenya 129/10

Uganda won by 33 runs (Kenya all out in 19 overs)

November 30:

Rwanda 65/10 Uganda 66/1

Uganda won by 9 wickets (with 71 balls to spare)





Team                                  P             W           L            NR          Points                  NRR

Namibia                             6             6            0            0             12                       2.658

Uganda                              6             5             1            0           10                         1.334

Zimbabwe                         6             4             2            0            8                          2.922

Kenya                                 6             3            3           0            6                          -0.911

Nigeria                               6             1            4            1            3                           -1.026

Tanzania                            6             1             5             0           2                           -1.507

Rwanda                              6             0             5            1             1                           -4.303

*Top two will represent Africa at the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup in West Indies & USA



                                             IC           TM         MM

Alpesh Ramjani                9             7             8.5                       

Frank Nsubuga                 5             4             5.5

Riazat Ali Shah                  8             6             7

Cyrus Kakuru                     7             3             6

Ronak Patel                       6             3             5

Brian Mark Masaba         8             5             8

David Eric Wabwire         5             2             5

Kenneth Waiswa              6             4             5.5

Robinson Obuya              5             2             5

Henry Ssenyondo            8             6             6.5

Roger Mukasa                  8             3             6.5

Dinesh Nakrani                 8             7             7.5

Bilal Hassun                       7             9             8

Simon Ssesazi                   8             5             7

Jonathan Ssebanja          5             2             5

*IC denotes Interim Coach, TM denotes TM Manager & MM for Media Manager

Marks out of 10 as given by Coach (Jackson Ogwang), Team Manager (Charles Waiswa) & Media Manager (Innocent Ndawula) respectively


If you’re to consider one person, we use this below from me.

 Alpesh Ramjani (8.5); Second best bowler of tourney with 12 wickets. Traditional leftie stunned Zimbabwe with amazing shot execution & superbly spun the ball throughout.  

Frank Nsubuga (5.5); Veteran played just two matches, did his bit with the ball and showed he’s still as fit as a fiddle at 43.

Riazat Ali Shah (7.5); True all-rounder. Nation’s top runs scorer with 132 & 7 wickets, plus three high traffic. World knows his potential now.

Cyrus Kakuru (6); Young keeper showed glimpses of improvement. Was at the U-19 World Cup last year and now has a chance to go to the senior one next year.

Ronak Patel (5); 127 runs, 76 of them in boundaries. Imagine how dangerous Ronak would have been if he had taken more singles.

Brian Mark Masaba (8); Captain Fantastic. Took every game like a final, made right calls with team selection and bold ones on the field.

David Eric Wabwire (5); Did his 12th man duties ungrudgingly as he waited for his chance to play, in vain.

Kenneth Waiswa (5.5); The vice-captain was in and out of the squad after he struggled for early form. Showed true quality at the back-end of the tourney  

Robinson Obuya (5); A rookie in the side with a bludgeoning reputation. Got few chances to impress but he’s quite a vibe and one for the future.

Henry Ssenyondo (6.5); The wily left-arm spinner bowled in tandem partnership with Ramjani and his six scalps at an economy of 4.70 is enviable.

Roger Mukasa (6.5); The solid knock against Zimbabwe is unforgettable and so are the four unforgettable catches. Still got more gas in the tank.

Dinesh Nakrani (7.5); Played his way into form despite a troublesome wrist. Highest team strike rate of 157 and nine scalps justify his reputation.

Bilal Hassun (7); Has lost a yard or two of pace but very potent at the death with the old ball. Cleaned up most opposition tail. A death whisperer.

Simon Ssesazi (7); The left-hand opener repaid the faith by single-handedly killing off Kenya with 60 runs – the 14th career half-ton for Uganda’s leading runs scorer in T20Is.

Jonathan Ssebanja (5); Miraculously bounced back into the side when everyone thought he had quit. Never called into action but remains an integral member.

Coach Jackson Ogwang & Consultant Craig Williams (8); The hard workers had the dugout and field under their wraps with newly recruited consultant Craig Williams offering the calming effect. The pair looked like a match made in heaven as they laid out plans and forced their execution.