Ssesazi aims to take Uganda to next level

Batting Maestro. Left-hand opening batsman Ssesazi has been the most consistent runs getter for Cricket Cranes since the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic. He is without doubt the man for the moment. PHOTO / EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Blessing In Disguise. After making a forgettable debut in 2018, Ssesazi was out in the cold and forthwith a forgotten man but the Covid-19 pandemic and Mahatlane helped him refind his mojo.

Simon Ssesaazi could have given up in 2018. After all, fitting into a senior national team set-up never comes easy. Ssesaazi’s first attempt with the Cricket Cranes never went well. His first, the Tour of Qatar in early 2018 was easily forgettable.

 And in the next big ICC World Cricket League Division (WCLD) Four in Malaysia tournament, the left-hand opening batsman had a nightmare.

 “Things never went as I wanted, and the results were so bad,” Ssesaazi recalls after making just 11 sorry runs in four innings.  It appeared replacing left-hander Arthur Kyobe atop the order wasn’t going to be simple, especially amid pressure. “Stage fright engulfed me. I could hardly perform.”

 Thereafter, he was dropped by selectors for the subsequent ICC WCLD Three in Oman at the end of that same year, the T20 Regional World Cup Qualifiers in Rwanda as well as the Africa T20 Finals at home in 2019.

 But, four years later after his worst career tournament, Ssesaazi is a different man. He is a core member of Team Uganda now as the nation hosts five other countries in round two of the ICC World Cup Challenge League B next week.

Ssesaazi’s turning point came during the Covid-19 lockdown, the same period when South African coach Laurence Mahatlane arrived to replace Kenyan Steve Tikolo.

 “I used to go to Kyambogo Oval to train with some other guys that came around. Every day, I was trying to work on my mistakes,” the 25-year-old explains after a recent trial match.

 “It gave me time to hit more balls in the nets and also try out new skills that I had seen in video clips of the international players and, I worked on my fitness levels and also fielding, too.”

 Mahatlane is hell bent on results and Ssesaazi had to apply himself on the crease to earn a nod. Luckily, he impressed in last year’s Tri-Series with Kenya and Nigeria.

Rejuvenated man

 “Coach Mahatlane helped me out with improving my technique and also helped me play my game freely. He made sure I hit close to 500 balls a day in the nets and also gave me as many games as possible to gain my confidence and awareness.

 “It has given me confidence because the more I hit balls, the more I get to see the ball well and the more I work on my shots and technique.”

 After a thorough period of reflection, Ssesaazi hopes to repay back to Mahatlane by performing.

 And he now looks the part ahead of the crunch limited-overs tournament where Uganda bids to keep top of the table in quest for a slot at next year’s ODI World Cup in India.

 During the Cricket Cranes’ tour of Namibia in early April, he was the team’s top run scorer in four of the five matches including three half-centuries.

 “It was a dream come true for me because scoring against the team that played in the World Cup is massive to me and a plus to the team.

 Ssesaazi is following in his elder brothers’ footsteps. Orthodox bowler Henry Ssenyondo has been part of the Cricket Cranes since the start of last decade while their senior Ronald Ssemanda hasn’t played since 2013.

 If you add the card that the Cricket Cranes will face inevitable pressure to deliver in front of their fans at Lugogo and Kyambogo, Ssesaazi wants to play cool.

 “I don’t want to put myself under pressure because of targets but what I can say is I only need to play my best and also pray to God that I keep this form I have until the tournament,” he added.