He was first contacted by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) in January, after Kenyan Steve Tikolo chose not to renew his contract as national men’s coach. But UCA and the fraternity had to wait for almost 10 months for South African Laurence Mahatlane to sign up for the job.
And yesterday, the man with significant greys gripping three-day stubble beard and a commendable sense of humour, was unveiled by UCA CEO Martin Ondeko on a three-year contract.
The wait has been long due to paperwork and the big monster: coronavirus pandemic.
But the former South Africa U19s’ coach Mahatlane is finally home and a big task awaits him.
“We know of your passion for young talent and we are looking forward to walking the journey with you to the ODI (One Day International) status by 2022,” Ondeko said to Mahatlane as cameras flashed.
“I am excited at the challenge thrown to me by UCA,” Mahatlane spoke his heart out in a well-packaged four-minute brief, which felt like an ODI half-century.
“The process started in January. I have to say, it was very persuasive. I got a couple of harsh-worded emails because with Covid coming in, and other interests made sure I signed on the dotted lines.”
“It’s not about Vision 2022 which is the senior men’s team, it’s a wider vision. And it’s making sure that our Lady Cranes also do well, making sure that our girls grow.”
Uganda’s path to ODI status is on the right track. The Cricket Cranes triumphed at the first round of the ICC World Cup Challenge League B in Oman last November.
And by being top of Group B in the long route to the 2013 ODI World Cup set to be in India, the man with 24 years’ coaching experience must win round two and three next year. “Players for me are number one and they are for me the ones that are going to make us the best team on the continent,” he said. Is it realistic though? “If we cannot have a vision of growing to that kind of level, then we shouldn’t be there.”
“Hopefully, I will be part of that dream of seeing us as a country go on to achieve greater things. You’ve seen Afghanistan do it, you’ve seen Ireland do it, and nothing should stop us in attaining those goals.”
“We haven’t got a final structure from ICC. We have got the talent and ability but we have got to get the opportunity to plan. Hopefully we play in April and that will have given us enough time to prepare and plan.”
Will two years to get the team into the ODI status, how does he blend it in with the youth structures?
Best fielding team
“In terms of development, having looked at numbers, we have got a lot of natural bowlers. We are more than capable of being the best fielding team in the world.
“The biggest challenge has been batting. So for me batting is going to be the focus. It requires a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of focus.”
His first assignment will be overseeing the Cricket Cranes’ trip to an Invitational T20 Tour in Qatar next month. Mahatlane, led his Rainbow Nation to three ICC Under-19 World Cups where they finished 11th, fifth and eighth, is keen on fitting way fast into the Ugandan setting.
“My first task is to learn the players, not only who they are but what they do,” a jovial Mahatlane said before cheekily stressing his point further.
“I am going to give myself a target of six months that I will do a whole press conference in the local language.
“But I think it is important that I understand what Uganda is about, the culture of the people, not just me coming in, with all these ideas, I prefer to understand who I am working with, how I am working, and how can we meet each other half-way to achieve great success,” he added.
He is the fifth South African to hold this job in two decades after Mohammed Barney, Conrad Shukri, Johan Rudolph and Peter Kirsten.