The last two years of the pandemic have wiped out the local cricket season in Uganda. Specifically, Uganda’s 7 pm curfew has not helped matters because most of the teams and players come from out of town.
Nonetheless, Uganda Cricket Association took a decision to invest in their national teams. The Victoria pearls recruited Suraj Karavadra from the UK to help them progress and the also Cricket Cranes toured Namibia in first half of the year.
Preparations for the various national teams have not been cheap as well, with the Association having to make sure players are constantly tested and also kept in bubbles for extended periods of time. Indeed, the Victoria pearls missed out on the Kwibuka tournament because a large of the players tested positive for Covid-19.
All in all, 2021 was a good year for Uganda as the Cricket Cranes qualified for the Global Qualifiers after 13 years and the Baby Cricket Cranes also managed to qualify for the U-19 World Cup in West Indies after 15 years.
Uganda enjoyed all this success in Kigali, first with the U-19 boys who eclipsed Tanzania who had led the tournament table and net run rate charts until the final day. Uganda had suffered similar heartbreak as Tanzania in 2017 in Nairobi when Kenya came from behind to take the World Cup slot. It was huge achievement for Uganda considering that schools have not been working for the last two years and that schools cricket is the key feeder system for junior national sides.
The Cricket Cranes played more than eleven T20 international games to earn a slot at the Global Qualifiers. Uganda had been relegated to Division 2 and had to play in the qualifiers to earn a slot in the finals three weeks later in Kigali. Uganda swept aside Ghana, Seychelles, Rwanda, Eswatini, and Lesotho in Division 2, and then met Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, who won the other qualifier.
The Africa finals were not a walk in the park for the Cricket Cranes. They lost both their coaches to illness but the team dug deep to deny Kenya what had become their right of passage. The Cricket Cranes will be going to Zimbabwe in July as they seek to tread a path that saw Namibia make it to the World Cup last year. Namibia won the qualifiers in Kampala in 2019 and went all the way to this year’s T20 World Cup.
As strong 2021 has meant that 2022 will be a busy year for Uganda if Covid allows. The second and third rounds of the Challenge League B are due and Uganda is the team to chase in Group B. The second round that was supposed to be hosted in Kampala, but was then shifted to Hong Kong, and ultimately postponed due to the pandemic.
The U-19 World Cup is taking place in the West Indies in January and the baby Cricket Cranes have already set up camp in Guyana. Uganda will want to improve their record of only two wins out of 12 games; they will come up against South Africa, Ireland and India in Group B.
Ugandan cricket is finally finding its footing on the international stage but we all know that getting there isn’t the hard part. Staying with the big boys is much harder.
Article by Denis Musali for www.emergingcricket.com