By Denis Musali
2018 was a year of changes for cricket both on and off the field, early in the year the long serving chairman of the umpires body the late Francis Ekalungar met his death brutally in a murder still under investigation. The new executive led by Baker Elonge has done nothing significant to improve umpire standards that have virtually remained average.
Still off the field Justine Ligyalingi left his position as CEO under very unclear circumstances and was replaced by Martin Ondeko. Martin officially took office in April and his start couldn’t have been harder than having to deal with the strained relationship with National Council of Sports.
On the field the torrid 2017 Div 3 Qualifiers claimed casualties with Arthur Kyobe, Lawrence Ssematimba and Arnold Otwani taking the fall for a poor showing in front of the home crowd.
With a busy 2018 Roger Mukasa was handed the cricket cranes reigns taking over from Davis Karashani who took a break to concentrate on his studies and the tour to Qatar/India was his first assignment. The cricket cranes gave a good account managing to win at least 5 of their 8 games the only downside of the tour was losing English based Llyod Patternot to a gruesome knee injury in the 1st T20 encounter against Qatar.
Not so much to write about on the tour though youngsters Zephaniah Arinaitwe, Trevor Bukenya, Fred Achellam and Kenneth Waiswa showed character needed to compete at a higher grade. Riazat Shah also got a shot at playing with the cricket cranes on his 1st tour with the side and he would become an important player for the rest of the year.
The biggest test of the cricket cranes was going to be the Div 4 qualifiers in Malaysia, the cricket cranes suffered relegation in 2017 in front of their home crowd and the team needed a big performance to regain the faith of the public and also make an immediate return to Div 3 and push for higher places.
In Malaysia only the home side managed to nick a win off the cricket cranes but after that Roger and his troops showed character in picking up wins against the 5 other nations with the one run win over Denmark being the most notable.
Test one was passed but there was a lingering desire to see Roger score runs he didn’t make any notable contribution in Malaysia but was even present as a team player especially when he chose to bowl himself in the win over Denmark.
While the men were in Malaysia, the ladies were making history in Netherlands, they were competing for a slot at the Women’s T20 World Cup in West Indies as African champions for the 1st time. They might have come up short but the African champions left a mark on the tournament and if they make it a habit to qualify for the event a place at the World Cup is not so far away.
Gertrude Candiru and Immaculate Nakisuyi were still a class apart in the tournament with standout performances earning themselves selection to the 13 member ICC Global Development squad which had to compete against sides in the T20 blast in the UK. Unfortunately both players missed this opportunity due to visa issues missing an opportunity that could have opened doors for the rest of the lady cricket cranes squad.
Fast forward to mid-year the Africa B T20 World Cup qualifiers were on for the cricket cranes and there was little chance that the cricket cranes would miss out with 2 slots up for grabs for the four participating nations. The hosts Rwanda were never going to threaten any of their neighbours and even though Tanzania claimed a famous win against Uganda the migingo derbies lit up the tournament with Kenya winning the opening game chasing down a mammoth 227 but the cricket cranes had the last laugh winning the final game of the tournament to seal qualification for both sides to the next round of qualifiers. The final qualification round will be hosted by Uganda in May 2019 where 2 nations out of six will qualify for the global qualifiers.
Again Roger Mukasa went AWOL in Rwanda even against minows such as Rwanda and Tanzania but the team kept winning none the less. Ronak Patel and Dinesh Nakrani were introduced in the team in preparation for Div 3 qualifiers later in the year and both had decent debuts.
The team also made a debut at the Africa T20 In South Africa with the trip also being used as the curtain raiser for the Div 3 qualifiers in Oman. Against superior opposition in South Africa the team at least picked up two wins in the main tournament as well as compete well in the warms against academy sides in the 50 over games.
However, all this hard work was undone by the Div 3 qualifiers in Oman. The cricket cranes came into the tournament with a reputation and were rated as one of the top two sides but nothing went to script as the side only managed one win against Denmark before losing the rest of their other five games.
The ugly came out after losing in Oman, Irfan Afridi was banned from bowling after only six balls in the USA game meaning the cricket cranes were denied their best weapon, Roger could not buy a run when the team was back against a wall, the fraternity turned on the players and coach with the team slipping back into the country unnoticed.
However, for the neutrals and not emotional observers the cricket cranes had taken so many gambles with no proper planning, for a long time the team has lacked a wicket keeper batsman with Fred Achelam slotted in and then dropped for Oman.
The captaincy as clearing weighing on Roger whose contribution with the bat was needed more than his ability to toss the coin. The ultimate team player had been sacrificed because the team lacked leadership.
Ronak Patel and Dinesh Nakrani didn’t bring instant rewards with neither of them showing up when the team needed them the most in Oman.
The failings of the team can’t be put on the players but a system that has failed to adapt, while other nations have found a way to be competitive in the torturous world of the World Cricket League Uganda remains oblivious to the fact that everyone around them is improving.
A non-competitive league which cannot support national team players while there are no clear pathways to feed the senior national team.
Martin surely has his work cut out and with elections set for early in January a new change of guard needs to get their priorities right.
Most the governance changes have not yielded any credible change in terms of structural changes, the new CEO will need all the support he can get to ensure that he can kick start cricket in Uganda.
Otherwise the more things changed in 2018 the more they remained the same.