Laurence Mahatlane gives as much as he gets. Those that have interacted with the new Cricket Cranes coach will be quick to acknowledge that the 44-year-old is an affable gaffer.
The South African has an ingrained touch that makes him earn respect from his players without labouring too much because he knows how to perfectly separate cool-off moments from work-mode routines.
No wonder he was a hit back home in the Rainbow Nation where he primarily handled youngsters in his 24-year coaching career during which he took the Junior Proteas to three International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cups between 2013 and 2020.
Youngsters need a special kind of attention as they desire quick approval and appraisal, especially if they feel they’re giving their best and following the set instructions.
Aura of renewed passion
Previously feeling like neglected upstarts and always in want-away defensive mode, several youngsters in the national junior set-ups – even those not contracted by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) – have swarmed Lugogo, requested the coach to welcome them into the senior men’s national set-up and have practiced on a daily without a certified allowance.
The training sessions are a sight to behold with an aura of renewed passion as the players happily throw the kitchen sink at each other with a solitary goal of impressing the new tactician.
And because of his well-documented eye for getting the best out of developing players, Mahatlane has voluntarily spiced up the training sessions and it has been a normal occurrence at the end of sessions when he dips his hand into his pockets and rewards outstanding players with some money. What a way to bowl over someone!
With many of the core senior players still trying to balance work and training, it is the youngsters that spend more time with Mahatlane and thus reaping more from his cricketing brain.
And although the coach refuses to be drawn into naming his standout trainees thus far, many previously lowly-rated youngsters including top order batsmen; Emmanuel Hasahya and Simon Ssesaazi as well as bowlers; Cosmas Kyewuta, Trevor Bukenya, Siraje Nsubuga and Jonathan Kizza have already stepped up to the plate with noteworthy displays and will be hard to ignore if consistency becomes their forte.
Training for all
“For me, everyone is invited,” says the man bred in Soweto - a township of Johannesburg City in Gauteng, South Africa that has a similar setting to that of Naguru, Nakawa and Lugogo where many of Uganda’s young cricketers hail from – on his decision not to lock out anyone from training sessions.
“I have been impressed most by the boys’ natural ability. Different players have stood up at different times. I think the boys are starting to understand their own games better and we still need to find consistency. That’s the plan.”
Back in his home country, Mahatlane has nurtured players like Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Verreynne, Wiaan Moulder and Lutho Sipamla into global forces.
If he can weave that magical wand in the Pearl of Africa, then Uganda’s dream to attain One Day International (ODI) status could become a reality sooner than anyone ever anticipated.
To achieve that goal, the team is leaving no stone unturned with competitive training sessions that include two 50-over matches and two Twenty20 games every week ahead of the hectic international schedule.
The future...Youngstars in training
Cosmas Kyewuta, David Wabwire, Emmanuel Hasahya, Jonathan Kizza, Perry Wazombe, Simon Ssesaazi, Siraje Nsubuga, Steven Wabwose, Robinson Obuya, Calvin Watuwa, Gerald Mubiru, Trevor Bukenya, Fred Achelam, Kenneth Waiswa, Riazat Ali Shah, Zephaniah Arinaitwe, Frank Akankwasa, Juma Miyagi, Rogers Olipa, Derrick Bakunzi, Collins Okwalinga, Ronald Opio.
Cricket Cranes schedule
Namibia Invitational Tournament in Windhoek
Africa T20 Cup Regional Qualifier Tournament in Stellenbosch, South Africa
Takashinga Visit (Zimbabwe)
ICC World Cup Challenge League B in Jersey
Africa T20 Cup Finals Tournament in Nigeria
ICC World Cup Challenge League B in Uganda