13 December 2012

Uganda: U-19 Cricket Girls Are Talented but . . .

Kampala — The baby faces on Uganda's U-19 girls cricket side glowed in the conference room of Nob View Hotel, Ntinda, Monday evening.

This was the closing ceremony of the 2012 ICC Africa U-19 T20 Championship and the Ugandan girls had had the final word on the six-team tournament after emerging overall winners by virtue of a better net-run-rate than Botswana.

But as Rebecca Mirembe and her young team-mates basked in the envy of their peers, one had to wonder whether this was the beginning of a something special for a group of talented cricketers or if it was another false dawn.

Uganda's problem with cricket talent has not been unearthing it so much as nurturing it. Most of these girls have the ability to go on and become good cricketers but what are the chances that they will actually do. Few.

"Between school, womanhood and other distractions, some of these girls will fall out of the game," disclosed a development official at the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA), who preferred anonymity.

"It is a fact of life that many of these players don't go on to achieve their potential. For instance, four of our most important players are not likely to take part in the senior women's (T20) tournament (in Tanzania) because of one reason or the other."

Still, the official argued that despite the likely talent drain, the emergency of this crop of players inevitably means that the player-base has increased. Uganda boasts one of the most comprehensive girls' cricket development programmes in Africa, with the game currently having a presence in 186 primary schools, 25 secondary schools and the highest form being the national women's cricket league.

Uganda U-19 girl cricketers celebrate their win over Tanzania to lifet the ICC Africa Twenty title. PHOTO/Michael Nsubuga

Gayaza High School, an academic behemoth for decades, possess one of the most enviable cricket programmes, shining both in schools cricket and in the league. Three of their products were part of this team, including the skipper and wicketkeeper.

Mirembe is the daughter of the current headmaster of Kings College Budo, which, among other things, means the future of the S.6 vacist does not lie in scoring centuries or plundering wickets.

Nevertheless, Mirembe, along with former schoolmate and current U-19 team-mate Mercy Faith Lakisa, plans to stay in the game for some time to come. "I want to play the game until I become a good all-rounder," Mirembe said. "I mean, who wants to leave the game without, say, scoring a century. I definitely want to achieve things. Even when I am at university, I will keep playing."

Lakisa said: "Right now I am just a wicketkeeper but I want to work on every other part of my game. I want to be able to score runs often."

Plenty of wishes, plenty of possibilities, sad how it all may never be realised.

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