By Davis Karashani
Former Cricket Cranes Captain.
A decade ago what was just another village in Rwanda is now the East African cricket garden of Eden. Gahanga which is approximately 12kms from Kigali is home to the best cricket stadium in Africa outside South Africa & Zimbabwe. For an area largely known for its roadside market, Gahanga will in the next decade be the metropolis of sports and cultural activities in Rwanda something we all can’t wait to see and applaud. Gahanga cricket oval has hosted a number of fantastic events already winning praise from all over the international cricket fraternity making it an obvious choice for the ICC granting it hosting rights of the ICC Group B T20 qualifiers from 7th-14th July. The tournament provides yet another pathway to the World T20 event where the top two teams will proceed to the continental meet slated for later this year.
Under the new official leadership of Shem Obado after top level team management changes rung in following a disastrous WCL Div two in Namibia early this year, the pride of Africa and great cricket nation will be seeking immediate redemption. The ghost of the WCL Div 2 still largely hovers over Kenyan cricket with effects going into key resignations and administration overhaul but fortunately or not, the playing personnel have largely remained unchanged. It is these 14 players that are tasked with the assignment of returning pride to the “great” Kenya as they will use this tournament as redemption and remind associate teams that they do belong among the top teams. Kenya will yet again rally behind performances from Dhiren Gondoria, Rakep Patel, Collins Obuya and Alex Obanda that love this format and boy will the 45 million Kenyans hope they don’t fire blanks this time.
Kenya come into the tournament after a recent series in Zimbabwe as the top ranked team and I predict they should easily make the final.
The cricket cranes have blossomed and come good this year winning back a lot of faith from fans in and outside Africa. A team with momentum after winning the WCL Div 4 in Malaysia will come into the event as second seeds and will be looking to continue its good fortunes under Roger Mukasa. Gahanga cricket oval provides good winning memories to the cricket cranes that won the first ever invitational T20 event there last year and many cricket cranes fans won’t expect anything less. Yet another good blend of youth and experience in the team combination is an indication of how Uganda is taking this tournament.
The Cricket Cranes will rely on numerous former Africa T20 champions coupled with a number of big game players in scintillating form to stage a mammoth claim for top honors ahead of Kenya.
Frequent participants at Africa T20 events but been starved of international cricket, Tanzania have continued to operate like a stealth plane with limited publications on their team preparations. This closed book approach of holding cards close to the chest could mean one of two things, they either have the “joker” or are very short on quality resources a question to be answered by 14 July.
Teams should be wise not to under rate Tanzania as they have the potential to send some shivers down “big” team spines.
Good luck Tanzania.
The darlings of East African cricket won’t only be playing in front of their very passionate fans but will be making their T20i status debuts against teams ranked above them but a challenge they will thoroughly welcome and enjoy after a recent successful series win against Zambia.
Rwanda seem to be providing a blue print for cricket administration, facility development, player development to mention but a few evidenced by their recent ICC award for Best women’s initiative.
Knowing Coach Martin Suji, all the hard yards have been put in by now and the players will only be waiting to execute team plans under Eric Dusabemungu hoping 18 year old Orkide Tuyisenge can continue his fine form.
Rwandese determination will further be expected to hold onto all energy to play even harder cause upsets following the recent shock death of their teammate Prince Uwimanishaka. That said, I expect Rwanda to be the “Russia” and pull off some big results.
The tournament will further reunite the great Kenyan legends and teammates Steve Tikolo, Maurice Odumbe and Martin Suji all coaches of 3 of the 4 teams that will be looking to out do each other on the field but share a plate of ugali, goat meat and sukuma later in the night.
When all is said and done, I don’t think Uganda and Kenya will ever get an easier ICC tournament like this one and I will expect them to flourish without much trouble. Good luck to the teams and the biggest winner already is the beautiful Gahanga Cricket Oval.