The gentleman’s game, the world over, has primarily been a family affair. Uganda has not been any different with the game flowing in the blood here like in any other part of the world.
From the Kibukamusoke family, that has produced Eng. William and sons Jeremy, Cyrus and Marvin to the Mukasa brothers, whose talented trio includes; Frank Nsubuga, Lawrence Ssematimba and current Cricket Cranes captain Roger Mukasa Galiwango, the list is endless.
But that list is half full. It would be a grave sin if the name Luswata is not mentioned anywhere in the birth, renaissance, development or more so administration of the game in Uganda.
Perhaps no group of siblings has done as much for cricket in their country as the Luswata brothers in Uganda. Debatable? Maybe Yes! But the pick of the Luswata brothers is arguably Paulo Nsibuka Luswata.The last born in a family of seven that comprised of three boys, Nsibuka was destined to play cricket.
Being the kid bro, throw-downs (tossing balls for his elder brothers) was a role he had to do without compromise as the ‘big boys’ batted hours on the end.
A typical left-hander, Nsibuka featured for traditional schools giants King’s College Budo, Makerere University and later the national team (now called Cricket Cranes).
From a generation of immensely talented individuals, many concur that Nsibuka is one of the best-ever players to represent Uganda – something he downplays at every mention of it as an exaggeration.
We had a lengthy, educative and priceless chat with Paulo about the gentleman’s game back in the days, how fell in love with it, the influence of his family and also probed to know some of his best players.
Enjoy the excerpts from the full interview;
Q. We start on a light note. Your name always makes the XI of the best cricketers to have played for Uganda, how does that make you feel?
A. I did not know I was one of the regularly chosen players and honestly I am quite surprised. Yes, I was a decent player in my days (which did not
last too long due to work) but did not think I would make the all-time Uganda team for especially the new generation that did not see me play. I also feel honoured that people across all ages think I was good enough, but fear they may be mistaken.
Q. Tell us about how you started playing cricket?
A. Hoooo (says while getting animated), I honestly did not have a choice about playing cricket. I started playing in the early 70’s as a five-six year-old. I am from a family of seven and I am the youngest of three boys with both my elder brothers Stephen and Chris ardent cricketers, who later played for
Uganda. From as early as six my late father was a member and later a chairman of the oldest cricket club in Uganda - Africa Cricket Club (ACC) and Uganda Cricket Association (UCA).
Our idea of going out on Sunday after church was to go to the cricket club and watch Sam Walusimbi (Wanderers patron/coach), William Kamanyi (former national coach), William Kibukamusoke (Tornado Bee patron), David Goloba, James Shikuku (both former national team players) etc, etc playing.
I used to bowl to Chris at home and he would also (less often) bowl to me. Later on I would ‘bully’ the houseboy when I grew a little bigger to
bowl to me. It was love at first sight and from the age of six I was playing cricket and getting cricket presents for my Christmas.
Q. What are some of your fondest school memories playing the game?
A. I was in Budo Junior School (Kabinja) but unfortunately by the time we got there cricket was not being actively played. In my Primary 7 after the
Idi Amin war, I and a few friends who had some exposure to cricket, landed on some cricket equipment in the games room and decided to have a go at reviving it. The remnants of the pitch were still there on the upper field and we went on to play some games. Only two or three of us could
actually bowl properly but we had several games that were really great fun.
Fonder memories are actually at King’s College Budo (KCB) where in Senior 1 we played matches on Saturday after preps (afternoon class study sessions) in 16 over games.
In my first game as a Senior One, I got six out of a total team score of 50. Top scorers in those games would get 10 and usually was by Arthur Kasirye (RIP) and
Andrew Meya (former Cricket Cranes Team Manager), who were the hottest junior players in the school and were always on opposing sides to even out the teams.
Q. How about the memories from inter-house competitions in Budo to making the school team? Who were some of the players that were good but didn’t get a chance to play for Uganda?
When I went to KCB in 1980, we still had Junior and Senior inter-house competitions. That is how many cricketers were able to exist in school.
However cricket, as many other things, was dying and by my Senior 3, we only had senior inter-house games. In that year, Australia House won the tournament with the highlight being only I and Dr Kato Sebbaale (Case Hospital proprietor & Former UCA chairman), who was the school team captain and was in Senior 6 were the only ones who batted for Australia House the whole season as we kept winning the toss and inserting in the opposition who we managed to get out cheaply and thus polishing off the runs for no loss.
I was not good enough to play for the school team earlier on and my contemporaries like Peter Buyungo Ssonko (now a Colonel in the UPDF), Dr Nathan Bakyayita (WHO rep in Zambia) and Fred Musoke (Accountant in Zambia) all made the side before me.
It was heart breaking but probably helped me get more serious with my game. I had been taking things for granted. I also missed playing Schools Cricket Week (SCW) as there were only two in my years of high school. The first was in my Senior 2
when I failed to make the side and the second in my Senior 4 vacation when I happened not to be around.
However we played Busoga College Mwiri (BCM) in my Senior 6 at Budo and we were so confident. We were going to hammer them but lost. I remember Engineer San Ntende bowling me out for a few – wonder where he is now.
Players that remained serious ended up playing for the national team but at campus many petered off either to books as they were doing more serious courses than some of us, or to other sports. Of the talented players I saw (not played with) not to have played with Uganda, I can think of Jimmy Lwamafa (Snr).
Q. You come from a cricketing family, how much of an influence did they have on you pursuing cricket?
A. Like mentioned earlier, cricket was dictated to me. My dad played cricket for Budo and Makerere way back in the 40’s and while my memory is more of him playing tennis, his social life was always the cricket club and I have very fond memories of the game at Banojozi Oval (where the Queen’s Clock Tower is currently located) that was abandoned during the very insecure days of the early 80’s.
My brothers both played cricket as a matter of course and as the youngest to the lot I had no choice but to follow suit. Much as I loved other sports, too and had fair abilities in them. I grew up
where an outing was the cricket club and bowling to my brothers and playing mock games as a famous West Indian or England Test player with the houseboy. Stephen Lugemwa was a decent artist and around the first International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup in 1975 made a painting of Rohan Kanhai (West Indies Legend) from The Cricketer Magazine of the time which I adored immensely. Honestly, I did not have a choice about playing cricket.
Q. Now and Then! Can you compare the cricket cultures?
A. In a nutshell, ours was more amateur. Now it’s a lot more professional and neither is bad or good.
In our days, there was no money in cricket and one played strictly for the love of the game. Payment was only when you travelled and got some allowance from government for representing the country otherwise benefits were sitting at the bar after practice and getting a drink from the elders.
I remember Yonah Wapakhabulo (former national team opening batsman) complaining when we were made to jog for three kilometers. He argued that we were not preparing for the Olympics.
I would jog from Makerere to Lugogo with the only incentive being a better player and the hope of a beer. I remember being offered an envelope full of
money to join a club and I refused to do so as I felt it cheap and wrong (maybe naively in retrospect) to play for money and promptly joined the club the following year when no money was offered, and played probably my best cricket there-on.
Now everything is monetized on one side it makes the players more serious and in general are exposed at much higher level of cricket than we ever played.
However and sadly playing is now for reward not love and as such self-development and learning has died for competing against each other and in the process quality has suffered. But I believe a gel between the two would be perfect for Ugandan Cricket and I dream it will be achieved one day.
Q. Did you have to give up playing cricket to pursue a professional career?
A. Absolutely. I was lucky I did not get a job for a year between University and employment and gave cricket my all with William Kamanyi employing me as an errand boy and site manager for his beautiful house
in Lungujja. Alas, it could not last and I got a job in a bank. However my General Manager, Samwiri Njuki was a Budonian and a cricketer, so I was given some little time off to play. However as I rose up the hierarchy it became impossible to continue with the cricket and I had
to let it go.
Q. Share with us some of the best payers you have played with?
A. Without a doubt the best player I ever played with is Sam Walusimbi. He was a complete all round player who inspite of being a right hander was a better left arm spinner than I ever was, and I was not too bad either myself.He is simply the best player Uganda will ever have and he loves the game as much as he was good at it, a combination hard to achieve.
A very close second to him is Yonah Wapakhabulo. Immensely talented and when he decided to make it a priority in his life he was probably better than Sam on the wicket as a batsman.
Admittedly I played with Sam well after his very best but gosh Yonah was good and made it seem too easy. He would score 50 with no memorable shot at all but in probably 60 balls, just nudging the ball here and there and a polite four (4) down deep fine leg …….. then he would explode…. He had the best driver anywhere between point and the bowler on the off side…. Glorious player!
However he was easily destructed and soon got bored of the game, a folly of many an immensely talented sportsmen. That is why Sam was better, he combined immense talent and tenacity.
While Sam had both and Yonah had talent, for sheer tenacity, a very important character of the successful, I have to give William Kibukamusoke full respect in that regard. He was talented but not
quite to the extent of the two above, but gosh he had the bloody-mindedness in cricket to succeed when all of us had thrown in the towel.
I was lucky to have captained Tornado after him and also played a lot under Sam, and from sheer determination we gave Wanderers a good run for their money, inspite of them having a better team, William was always the player you bet your mother on to give his 100%, if he believed in the cause.
Q. Growing up who were your role models both locally and internationally?
A. Locally it had to be Sam Walusimbi, he was simply irresistible. He also had a way with kids that no other had. He would engage you and talk to you like you were equals and that spurred us on he was simply the best! I, however, did take a liking to David Goloba, mainly because he was left handed and a very talented sportsman, too.
Internationally, it was always David Gower. I was and still are a West Indian supporter and then this was the all-conquering Sir Clive Lloyd, Sir Viv Richards et all, but Gower was just another class.
He played cricket like I always felt it should be played; class finesse, free flowing….. name it, for a romantic you could not have any other ……. And he was left handed too! I remember my brother buying me a bat and whites endorsed by Gower and I used to wear the tee shirt to parties at campus!
Q. What are you up to now?
A. I am now a financial services consultant and enjoy the privilege of plying my trade from home. My most trusted friends are the computer and internet!
Q. What advise do you give youngsters now?
A. Love the game and play for love, the money will come if you play from the heart not strictly from the head and pocket.
Q. But we have to ask you this. Give us your all time Ugandan XI with you in it?
A. I am going to disappoint you because I do not qualify to be in my Uganda XI.
1. Prince George Mawanda (captained Combined Public Schools XI in England in the 1930’s).
2. Yonah Wapakhabulo
3. Sam Walusimbi
4. Joel Olwenyi
5. Roger Mukasa
6. John Lubia
7. Kenneth Kamyuka
8. William Kibukamusoke
9. John Nagenda
10. Lumumba Wapakhabulo
11. Franco Nsubuga
Q. As a current Board Member of UCA, what are the some of the challenges of the association and what do you think is the future of cricket in Uganda?
A. UCA has a limited budget to do so many things and we need to prioritize and copy the advanced cricketing nations rather than the emerging ones or better still create our own path. I fear sometimes we are spreading too thin.
The future of cricket is at serious crossroads and hard decisions have to be made to move ahead. Cricket has changed a lot and professionalism has come in. This is not necessarily a bad thing as I strongly believe people should be handsomely paid to ply their trade.
The problem money has completely taken over the love of the game and without money we have not cricket. This is a sad state of affairs and needs to be addressed. We have and always had a decent development program.
I was fortunate to watch our National Under 19s Team (Baby Cricket Cranes) in Nairobi during the 2017 ICC Africa World Cup Qualifier and those
kids were playing cricket I never played at my best.
Our challenge is to get them to the next level and keep them here playing with a hope of a future via the game.