The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: National Cricket Team Carries 2013 Hopes

Cricket was there and about in 2012 with some promising statistics. However, not much will count this year unless the men's national cricket team drags itself out of division three into division two in the ICC cricket rankings, writes John Vianney Nsimbe.

It was in 2011 that team Uganda was abysmal at the Division two World Cricket League championships in Dubai. Instead of progressing to division one, they dropped a cluster, which resulted in the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) not receiving the high-performance grant of $350,000 each year from the ICC. This year is for atonement especially considering that the aforementioned money greatly facilitated UCA development programmes.

That said, it won't be a case of wishing but one of effort. Team Uganda remains quite unpredictable in the 50-overs game unlike in the T20. Yet, this is the version they'll be playing to getting Uganda out of the third division. Team Uganda recently hired former Kenyan top batsman, Stephen Tikolo as the batting coach to improve their application at international level.

As coach-player of the Rwenzori Warriors, one of Uganda's franchise teams in the East Africa Elite League that pits four Kenyan franchise teams against two Ugandan teams, they played up to the finals of the T20 and 50-overs game. But still, Rwenzori lost the 50-overs final to highlight Uganda's problems in the long versions.

With more friendly games as head coach Martin Suji has seen his boys take part in, the prospect for improvement is there. But also, Suji has gone ahead to introduce more young players to the team. Clearly, the message in all this is that it's about time some seniors, whose contribution has stagnated, are phased out.

Suji has as a result given youngsters like Farouk Ochimi and Arnold Otwani more playing time to freshen up the team. They have the power to change the tide for team Uganda.

Other youngsters like Dhaval Patel helped Tornado win the Multiple Industries sponsored cricket league, an event that ensured that for the last four seasons, no team has defended the title. This unpredictability has made the game more exciting and the coming season should even be more appetising.

Patidar, the dethroned champs and Wanderers, who led until the final day of the season, should be back with a bang just as many other teams will be stronger than they were due to the way the UCA ensures that talent doesn't centre in one team. However, little effort seems to have been done by UCA to address the few fans watching the game.

But to their credit, women's cricket continues to grow steadily with more teams entering the fray. The women have also participated at international meets and more of this will be needed this year.

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