Damani outfits bring life to the oval as Mahatlane arrives

Thursday January 07 2021
cric001 pix

Season Reprieve. Aziz Darmani Scorpions’ opener Wasim Butt scoops a ball to the boundary during his unbeaten colourful innings of 88 off 70 while Royal Varsani Bucks’ wicket-keeper Fred Achelam looks to collect. The Scorpions were declared champions of the inaugural Uganda Elite League T20. PHOTOS/EDDIE CHICCO

By Allan Darren Kyeyune

The suspension of 2020 sports activity in the country on March 22 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic damaged different disciplines in unequal measure.
 Until now, some sports have no clue of when their calendars will resume while others like cricket, can raise their heads.
So little to savour
But the gentleman’s game had its innings curtailed for the greater part of 2020 with very few runs scored by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA). 
 The sport savoured so little in the year dominated by the Covid-19 storm. For the first time since ‘70s where there was political instability, the national leagues were not held across the 50-over, Twenty20 and six-over format.

 Uganda was also scheduled to play at the Africa T20 Cup in Nairobi, Kenya in March with eyes focused most on hosting the second round of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket Challenge League (WCCL) B later in August.
 But, Africa Cricket Association and ICC were forced to call off and postpone most events in 2021 as a result of disruptions by the pandemic.
Aziz Damani’s 2019 delight
However, weeks prior to lockdown in Uganda, some cricket had been played at Lugogo, Kyambogo and Entebbe Ovals. 
 Aziz Damani Cricket Club wrapped up their third straight National Men’s 50-Over League title in February, claiming the 2019 crown after beating permutations over the fixture spill-over into the new year. And in January, Uganda hosted the Tanzania U19 girls who played against two Ugandan sides in a warm-up Series. 

 The senior national men’s team also travelled to Qatar in February for matches against Qatar before heading to India. 
 On the sub-continent, the Cricket Cranes’ trip organised by Swetal Desai was at Sanjay Farm in Gujarat and Sapphale in Mumbai as they prepared for the would-be events in Nairobi. 
Goodbye Tikolo
 By the time Cricket Cranes travelled to Doha and Gujarat, national coach Steve Tikolo had already parted ways with the side.
 The Kenyan legend had a month prior just guided Uganda to WCCL B round one triumph in Oman.

 This paper understood that negotiations between Tikolo and UCA to extend their bond beyond three-and-a-half years had failed owing to a background of mistrust and displeasure.
 Tikolo’s contract had expired before Oman and he had been lured for that Middle East job where he stunned the UCA board and pessimists by landing five straight wins against Jersey, Bermuda, Kenya, Italy and Hong Kong in Al Amerat.

Lockdown stipend for players
When lockdown took effect, UCA covertly began sieving profiles of the next would-be Cricket Cranes coach.  And as the grass grew wildly due to inactivity to submerge the crease in Lugogo, some players were relegated to jogging and personal workouts.

 UCA, knowing the state of affairs, offered a financial monthly stipends to some men and women’s national team players of Shs300000 each among other offers. 
 Then UCA as well engaged stakeholders through online sessions via Zoom which concentrated on financial intelligence, personal growth, career guidance, introduction to cricket and umpiring career development.
Welcome Mahatlane
In June, UCA announced that South African Laurence Mahatlane would take over as new national team coach, on a three-year contract. The former South Africa U19 boss Mahatlane, with almost 25-year experience in coaching youth, had beaten 13 other candidates from countries like India, UAE, Australia and Kenya to replace legend Tikolo.
Mahatlane however had to wait until November to make the trip to Uganda and he poised to have a busy 2021. 
Along the way, UCA sealed a partnership with Equity Sport, a UK Charitable Organisation which provided a sports psychologist Edgar Kazibwe to furnish players’ mental strength. 
Bubble Elite Leagues
When President Yoweri Museveni eased restrictions on sports on September 20, cricket fumbled to resume but later, UCA staged a bubble Uganda Elite League in T20 format in October. 
Three franchises Aziz Damani Scorpions, The Royal Varsani and Mamba Challengers played in a round-robin format which the Scorpions won with much thanks from sponsors Pepsi, Hisense, Karveli, Meat One, Uganda Lodges, Metro Tyres and Aziz Damani.


UCA would later organize another for the ladies and matches were broadcast via the UCA YouTube channel and the Aziz Damani Hurricanes floored the Challengers Blizzards 3-1 in a five-game series.

1998 - April 2001: William Kamanyi
April 2001 - Dec 2003: Andrew Meya
Dec 2003 - Aug 2004: Tom Tikolo (KEN)
Sep 2004 - Mar 2007: Henry Okecho
April 2007 - Nov 2007: Sam Walusimbi
Nov 2007 - Jul 2008: Francis Ndege Otieno (KEN)
Jul 2008 - Oct 2010: Mohammed Barney (RSA)
Oct 2010 - Jan 2011: Conrad Shukri (RSA)
Feb 2011 - May 2013: Martin Suji (KEN)
May 2013 - Jul 2013: Henry Okecho
July 2013 - Feb 2014: Johan Rudolph (RSA)
Apr 2014 - Aug 2014: Davis Turinawe
Aug 2014 - Jan 2016: Peter Kirsten (RSA)
May 2016 - Dec 2019: Steve Tikolo (KEN)