By Innocent Ndawula
Former Lady Cricket Cranes captains Barbara Mukankusi and Naomi Kayondo proved that they’re a true testimony of patience and longevity when they earned the selectors nod on the ‘Squad of 18’ that will represent Uganda in the Victoria Tri Series.
The Victoria Tri Series, expected to see Kenya and Zimbabwe storm Kampala, are scheduled to bowl off this weekend on April 6 and will be played under the Twenty20 format on a round-robin basis.
Mukankusi, a member of the first-ever national women’s squad, last represented Uganda in 2016 whereas Kayondo makes a return to the side after successfully wrapping up her studies in United Kingdom. Kayondo wasn't even on the original provisional squad of 40 but once she returned to Kampala and made herself available for practice, the selectors had no option but to extend an olive branch to her. And her class has shown in the games she has played for Soroti Challengers thus far.
Back in the fray
“It is good to know that the selectors still have faith in me. I have been working hard and hopefully I will perform to expectations. It is always an honour to wear the national jersey and play for my country,” said Mukankusi, who is without doubt a role model for many of the upcoming female cricketers.
Also back in the mix after a three-year lull is top-order batter Damalie Busingye, who had relocated to Rwanda but is now fully back in the country and playing for Olila.
During their absence, the Lady Cricket Cranes have been riding high and grabbing the headlines all over the continent as they won the Africa Women’s T20 Championship, Zimbabwe Women’s Challenge and Tanzania Bilateral Series among others.
Uganda also featured at the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 Global World Cup Qualifier in Netherlands last year where they finished sixth to earn an ICC ranking in the format for the first time.
And now their return is expected to help Uganda scale more heights in preparation for the coveted ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers slated to run from May 8-13 in Zimbabwe.
The squad is mix of the tried and tested crop coupled up with a flavour of fast-rising stars that have been setting the trends in the most recent local tournaments.
Nine members were part of the side that toured Netherlands whereas nine are either returning to the side or set to make full debuts.
Pioneer Cricket Club batting maestro Leona Babirye, Jinja SS bowling all-rounder Sarah Walaza, Aziz Damani wicket-keeper Maria Kagoya, KICC’s all-rounder Patricia Malemikia, Olila’s stylish wicketkeeper cum batter Esther Ilukor and Soroti Challengers’ towering medium pacer Evelyn Anyipo have all been rewarded for their consistency and individual brilliance for their respective clubs.
Notably missing on the squad is African MVP and 2017 Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) Female Cricketer of the Year Gertrude Candiru who is currently in the Middle East. Completely ignored is Carol Namugenyi who has never been dropped before since making her debut in a 10-year career. Namugenyi has allegedly been busy with work commitments thus being unable to attend training as the coaches would have loved. Unfortunately there is also no place on the squad for the trio of Irene Alumo, Hope Wanichan, and Claire Mushakamaba who had previously had stints in the national team fold.
The selectors have also ignored the talented quartet of Aziz Damani’s hard working Hope Wanichan, Olila’s off spinner Gloria Obukor, Jinja’s next big talent Susan Kakai and Ceylon Lions’ left-arm opening bowler Eunice Kobusingye.
But mainstays Franklyn Najjumba, Immaculate Nakisuyi, Consy Aweko, Rita Musamali, Stephannie Nampiina, Janet Mbabazi, Rachael Ntono and Kevin Awino will all have another bite at the cherry.
The selectors will use the upcoming series to partly select the final 14-man squad to Zimbabwe while still keeping a keen eye on those temporarily dropped.
SELECTED SQUAD FOR VICTORIA TRI SERIES
Rita Musamali, Janet Mbabazi, Rachael Ntono, Immaculate Nakisuyi, Joyce Mary Apio, Stephannie Nampiina, Franklyn Najjumba, Kevin Awino, Consy Aweko, Patricia Malemikia, Esther Ilukor, Damalie Busingye, Evelyn Anyipo, Leona Babirye, Maria Kagoya, Barbara Mukankusi, Sarah Walaza, Naomi Kayondo
Habibu Mugalula, Michael Ndiko