Waiswa leads batting renaissance with Red Ball Cricket

What you need to know:

For nearly two decades, batting ineptitude has been a recurring challenge with Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) enabling only short-term solutions like change of coaches. 

Cricket in Uganda has wobbled at a certain level of the Associate grade in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings and the game has made small strides because of a persistent problem. 

For nearly two decades, batting ineptitude has been a recurring challenge with Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) enabling only short-term solutions like change of coaches. 

Batting woes

At worst, Uganda had relied on the works of some naturalized players to address the matter, names like Mpho Mukobe Selowa or Abraham Mutyagaba will ring the minds of many.

The batting Achilles however hasn't gone away. And surely, for Uganda to mingle with top International Cricket Council (ICC) Full Members like India, England or West Indies, something has to change. 

Former national team opening bowler Charles Waiswa has now chosen to give back to the sport by trying to nurture the country's next big batsmen.

Together with Isaac Imaka through the East Enders Sports Hub, the pair are running Red Ball Four-Day Series Cricket in the eastern district of Jinja.

"All formats of cricket like ODIs (One Day Internationals), T20 or T10 have been curved out of the longer version," the fiery left-arm seamer told this paper in a recent chat.

“And good batsmen are built using this format. We blame our batsmen for not scoring big 100s. We blame them for not constructing good innings and being on the wicket," he opined.

Priceless red ball cricket

"But, we've never prepared them. The teams they compete with have a First-class cricket background. Basically, they will learn when to graft, to attack, to slow down and when to play within their limits using four-day cricket," Waiswa argues.

Uganda has little or virtually no history about four-day cricket. Waiswa himself was a mainstay in the Cricket Cranes from 2005 until 2021 but he admits only have played just five First-class matches.

First-class cricket is a format of the game schedule for three days or more with each team having a chance to have two batting innings. Teams play in all white kit and use a red ball. Waiswa felt he needed to give back to the sport that nurtured him. 

Giving back to Busoga

Hence, he put resources together with Imaka over the last month to build two franchises Itanda and Busoowoko, named after waterfalls on River Nile to compete at Jinja Secondary School oval. “The region (Busoga) gave me so much. If it wasn’t for that ground, I would be nowhere. I wanted to do something unique," the 35-year-old notes.

"As people who have grown up in Busoga, we have chosen to send ourselves on a mission to contribute to ending poverty and negativity against the region. We have decided to use the tools we know best to make that contribution," explains Imaka, a former Parliament reporter at Daily Monitor

"We are sure that if one or two kids play the game professionally, that will be a community changed. That shall be our contribution to the fight against poverty and negativity in our region," Imaka adds.

During the first match between Itanda and Busoowoko which ended in a draw under the guise of overall coach Habibu Mugalula before Christmas Day, five half-tons were struck while two centuries were recorded.

Centuries show impact

The biggest knock was Steven Wabwose's knock of 120 runs off 233 balls comprising nine boundaries and shared a 182-run four-wicket stand with Pius Oloka (92 runs off 152 balls) during Itanda's second innings.

In response, Busoowoko replied with a century from Cricket Cranes' batting all-rounder Kenneth Waiswa who made 101 runs off 187 balls, including 12 boundaries and three sixes. 

National team players like Kenneth are also giving motivational talks to the upcoming players. This is a format that Waiswa feels UCA and the entire fraternity has neglected yet it can help improve the country's fabric of the gentleman's game, particularly on the thought processes. 

“We don’t give ourselves time on the wicket. A bowler who has never bowled a spell of 20 overs in an innings. We have kids who are doing that now."

"There is so much to learn in the four days, young players are engaged in 90 overs a day," Waiswa states. "With a four-day game, you have to think when the body is tired. You have the entire day to bat or to bowl."

Just the beginning

With support from the Gabula Royal Foundation well wishers, Waiswa and Imaka put money together to get white clothing, red balls, and sometimes, the former has had to umpire on some days to manage costs.

Red ball cricket is meant to be played with a white screen for background but the Jinja SS oval's screens are black and they aren't painted due to limitations in cash.

The first four-day match attracted about 50 players and it got attention from other interested parties in the UK and elsewhere. Waiswa says the programme will continue whether people like it or not so that Busoga region can produce fantastic cricketers and solve the batting mystery for our country.

"This is the new format in the region and we want to be identified by it. All the best cricketers in the world come from a First Class set-up and that is why we read about them," Waiswa added.

They could be the innings that cement a thorough foundation for the future of Uganda's cricket.