By Innocent Ndawula
There is a thin line between good and bad. Whereas one good innings with both bat and ball doesn’t necessary make one an all-rounder, the reverse is true in these cut-throat International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) tournaments.
One week or even a fortnight of poor cricket does statistically and financially leave one not only broke but also rethinking their career strategies. People play for their careers in these Associate meets and more often dreams get crashed easily.
The Cricket Cranes know this very well after their forgettable campaign in May last year in-front of their home fans when they failed to make hay at the Division III event enroute getting relegated to Division IV.
Such was 2017 for Uganda, it was a branded - the worst year for Ugandan Cricket as the game hit its lowest ebb with Uganda left to fight for dear life in the unknown environs of Division IV. Amidst untold drama, the Cricket Cranes kept afloat at the Division IV showpiece in Malaysia despite starting with a painful defeat to hosts Malaysia.
Now they find themselves in a familiar position with teams that they have wrestled with before as they bowl off their ICC WCL Division III campaign tomorrow (November 9) against Denmark at the newly-laid Oman Cricket Academy (OCA) Turf 2.
With this event being the penultimate tournament under the WCL structure that has been in place since 2007 after ICC’s announcement last month of a redesigned pathway for Associate Nations to reach the 2023 World Cup means this will be the last six-team event of this particular category (Division III).
And with Oman hosting an ICC event for the very first time, the conditions are bound to be tricky for every team. The two ovals for the tournament are erected in the valley overseen by rocky hills offering a beautiful scenery that could as well be distraction to the fielding side under the high balls.
The opening ties including Oman facing Kenya at OCA Turf 1 and Uganda locking horns with Denmark at OCA Turf 2 will provide a proper prelude to the teams playing on Day 2; USA versus Uganda at OCA Turf 1 and Singapore taking on hosts Oman at OCA Turf 2 on 10 November.
“We have been told by the groundsman that the team that drops less catches always carries the day at OCA Turf 2,” Cricket Cranes skipper Roger Mukasa disclosed to Cricket Uganda in an exclusive interview.
“It must be a result of the white walls of the academy and the browny-hilly background that helps in holding the ball in the air as well as the hot conditions and dry air.
“We have also been told that the toss is crucial because it is not advisable to bat first because of the anticipated tough first hour as well as the reverse swing early on. But we have practiced for three days at the ground and we will look to play smart.”
The first one for Uganda is a cracker against Denmark, along whom they were promoted from Division 4 Malaysia earlier this year. Both will be hoping to climb the ladder once more.
The spinning trio of Irfan Afridi, Henry Ssenyondo and classy veteran Frank Nsubuga will be relied on with the ball whereas Hamu Kayondo, who scored 179 runs in six matches in Malaysia alongside the quartet of captain Roger Mukasa, Dinesh Nakrani, Ronak Patel and Riazat Ali Shah must get a decent total on the scoreboard for the bowlers to defend.
For Danes, eyes will be on Saif Ahmad, who took 10 wickets to do the magic for the Europeans whereas captain Hamid Shah will be a batter to watch-out for after having scored 179 runs in five matches with an average of 59.66 in the Division 4 event.
Experience & Form
All six teams have relied on experience and in-form players in their quest to claim one of the top two available spots, which will take them to the Division 2 in Namibia between April 18-28, on their journey to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 qualification.
Oman and Kenya, who were relegated to Division 3 after finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the Division 2 in Namibia in February 2018, will be looking to bounce back instantly. The hosts have batter Khawar Ali, who scored 170 runs in six matches, and bowler Bilal Khan, who took 17 wickets at an average of 10.76, in their last outings in an ICC World Cricket League tournament.
For ‘rusty’ Kenya, they will hope their bunch of seasoned campaigners in Elijah Otieno, Captain Shem Ngoche, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson ‘Mandela’ Odhiambo, Irfan Karim and stylish batsman Dhiren Gondaria, who scored 167 runs in seven matches at the Div 2, come to the party.
For Singapore and USA, who retained their places in Division III from the Uganda edition, they have kept faith with their best performers then. Anish Paraam, who totaled 190 runs from six matches, and Anantha Krishna, who took 10 wickets, will be looking to repeat their heroics.
Steven Taylor is back in the mix for USA following his 126 runs and 10 wickets in Uganda 2017. Bowler Nosthush Kenjige, who took seven wickets, has also been named in the squad for the Oman tournament alongside Carribean boy-wonder Aaron Jones.
Relegation has effectively been eliminated at this event but the context cannot be any more satisfying with promotion on the line for the top two teams. The winners and runners-up in here in Muscat will advance to next April's Division Two tournament in Namibia where the top four teams will get ODI status and a spot in the Cricket World Cup League Two and a guaranteed 36 ODIs through 2021. Failure to finish in the top two in Oman means no ODI status and a guarantee of just 15 List A matches through 2021 as part of the new Cricket World Cup Challenge League. The agony of defeat will surely hurt big time.
Elsewhere, the Playing Control Team for the tournament will be led by V Narayana Kutty from India, who has been appointed as the ICC Tournament Referee. The Mentor Umpire, Sri Lanka’s Lyndon Hannibal, will be joined by two Nepalese umpires Buddhi Pradhan and Vinay Kumar Jha. The remaining umpiring responsibilities will be shared between the UAE’s Akbar Ali Khan and Iftikhar Ali and Rahul Asher from Oman.
Friday, 9 November Oman v Kenya, OC Turf 1; Uganda v Denmark, OC Turf 2
Saturday, 10 November USA v Uganda, OC Turf 1; Oman v Singapore, OC Turf 2
Monday, 12 November Kenya v USA, OC Turf 1; Denmark v Singapore, OC Turf 2
Tuesday, 13 November Oman v Denmark, OC Turf 1; Uganda v Kenya, OC Turf 2
Thursday, 15 November Singapore v Uganda, OC Turf 1; Denmark v USA, OC Turf 2
Friday, 16 November USA v Uganda, OC Turf 1; Kenya v Singapore, OC Turf 2
Sunday, 18 November Kenya v Denmark, OC Turf 1; Oman v Uganda OC Turf 2
Monday, 19 November Singapore v USA, OC Turf 1
*All matches start at 8.30am Ugandan time
DENMARK: Hamid Shah (captain), Jonas Henriksen, Taranjit Singh Bharaj, Saif Ahmad, Anique Uddin, Bashir Shah, Zameer Khan, Nicolaj Damgaard, Anders Bulow, Mads Henriksen, Jino Jojo
KENYA: Shem Ngoche (captain), Dhiren Gondaria, Narendra Patel, Rakep Patel, Irfan Karim, Alex Obanda, Pushpak Kerai, Gurdeep Singh, Emmanuel Bundi, Sachin Bhudia, Nelson Odhiambo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Lucas Oluoch, Elijah Otieno
OMAN: Zeeshan Maqsood (captain), Jatinder Singh, Aaqib Sulehri, Suraj Kumar, Khawar Ali, Muhammad Nadeem, Mehran Khan, Jay Odedra, Bilal Khan, Ahmad Butt, Kaleemullah Mahmood, Sufyan Mohammed, Baadal Singh, Nester Dhamba
SINGAPORE: Chetan Suryawanshi (captain), Aahan Gopinath Achar, Rezza Gaznavi, Amjad Mahboob, Anantha Krishna, Anish Edward Paraam, Aritra Dutta, Sidhant, Janak Prakash, Arjun Mutreja, Manpreet Singh, Karthik Subramanian, Rohan Rangarajan, Abhiraj Rajdeep Singh
UGANDA: Roger Mukasa (captain), Arnold Otwani, Dinesh Nakrani, Bilal Hassun, Brian Masaba, Hamu Kayondo, Ronak Patel, Henry Ssenyondo, Frank Nsubuga, Charles Waiswa, Irfan Muhammad, Kenneth Waiswa, Deusdedit Muhumuza. Riazat Ali Shah
USA: Saurabh Netravalkar (captain), Jaskaran Malhotra, Nisarg Patel, Steven Taylor, Alex Amsterdam, Jan Nisar Khan, Roy Silva, Monank Patel, Timil Patel, Aaron Jones, Hayden Walsh Jr., Elmore Hutchinson, Muhammad Ali Khan, Nosthush Kenjige
TOURNAMENT REFEREE: V. Narayanan Kutty
MENTOR UMPIRE: Lyndon Hannibal
UMPIRES: Akbar Ali Khan, Iftikhar Ali, Rahul Asher, Vinay Kumar Jha, Buddhi Pradhan