- Published in General News
The start for women’s cricket in Uganda was quite slow when Susan Luswata took on a handful of girls back in 2001.
Nearly two decades later, the senior women’s national women’s team is now set to grace the grand stage of the game.
Yesterday, the Lady Cricket Cranes were flagged for their biggest assignment ever to Netherlands for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier due July 7-14.
“It is a privilege to be here and we are ready to take on this big chance,” skipper Kevin Awino, said moments after receiving the flag from National Council of Sports general secretary David Katende and former Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) board member Jackson Kavuma.
This moment could have come earlier for Uganda but the nation had lived in the shadow of Zimbabwe and Namibia for long.
But now ranked second behind South Africa on the continent and 18th overall in the ICC global standings, there is all optimism heading to Netherlands.
“I believe we have done enough and we are ready to mingle with the big sides,” offered star player Gertrude Candiru who was MVP when Uganda won the Africa T20s last September to earn the Dutch ticket.
The country’s preparations had the Lady Cricket Cranes whitewash Tanzania 6-0 away and as well won the Zimbabwe T20 Women’s tourney in May.
The story is sweeter even with long-serving members like Franklyn Najjumba, Consy Aweko and Carol Namugenyi in the side that will face Scotland, 2016 Qualifier champions Ireland and Thailand in Group B at the eight-nation tournament.
The top two face those from Group A that includes Bangladesh, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and UAE in the semi-finals with the tournament finalists qualifying for the Women’s T20 World Cup in West Indies come November.
Coach Francis Otieno has a chance to blend that experience with youth exuberance that comprises Candiru, Ritah Musamali, Joyce Mary Apio and Immaculate Nakisuyi.
“We are going to represent the whole of Africa and we want to do it well even if it is our first time here,” assistant captain Janet Mbabazi said.
Uganda’s trip to Europe was bankrolled by MTN with Shs5m and support from the India Association of Uganda, among other individuals including a $1000 promise from UCA board member Hanumant Katkar.
Team Uganda: Kevin Awino (Captain), Janet Mbabazi (Assistant Captain), Gertrude Candiru, Rachael Ntono, Consy Aweko, Carol Namugenyi, Franklyn Najjumba, Saidat Kemigisha, Mary Nalule, Rita Musamali, Stephannie Nampiina, Immaculate Nakisuyi, Joyce Mary Apio, Prico Nakitende
Non-travelling reserves: Evelyn Anyipo, Irene Alumo
Officials: Francis Otieno Ndege (Coach), Grace Mutyagaba (Assistant Coach), Lydia Bakumpe (Manager), Mary Makumbi (Head of Delegation), Hanumant Katkar (UCA Board Member).
ICC WOMEN’S WORLD T20 QUALIFIER
July 5: UAE vs. Uganda, VCC
July 7: Scotland vs. Uganda, VRA
July 8: Uganda vs. Thailand, Kampong
July 10: Ireland vs. Uganda, VRA
July 12: Semi-finals
July 14: Final
Game 1: Uganda vs. Tanzania
Game 2: Uganda vs. Tanzania
Kampala. Ordinarily, there is a hangover that breeds after one attains an achievement.
But for the Uganda national women’s cricket team, it must have been a brief one after they garnered the title at the ICC Africa Women’s Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in Windhoek, Namibia last September.
In December, victorious coach Grace Mutyagaba and his superior Francis Otieno embarked on preparations for the ICC Global T20 Qualifier which bowls off July 3-14 in Netherlands.
The team broke off for the festive season on December 22, resumed training on January 8 and yesterday, the selected 14 players flew out to Dar-es-Salaam for a build-up tour against hosts Tanzania.
“This gives players a different challenge,” coach Otieno explained the importance of the trip to the coastal city moments after the team had been flagged off by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) administrator Martin Ondeko on Friday.
The team will play six T20 matches against Tanzania beginning today until Wednesday. Normally, Uganda tours Kenya, so why the change?
“We played Kenya before Dubai (2016) and Namibia (2017) trips. So this is a change is menu for the players. And besides, Tanzania is such a strong side that they have something we can pick from them,” Otieno said.
Four players who were part of the Africa T20 triumph including tournament MVP Gertrude Candiru (malaria), Carol Namugenyi (work), Naomi Kayondo (school in UK) and Joyce Mary Apio (form) miss out.
But their voids will be filled by returning Claire Mushakamba as well as eager and enterprising debutants Irene Alumo, Evelyn Anyipo and Esther Ilukor.
In July, Uganda will be featuring at the Global Qualifier alongside Thailand, UAE, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Ireland, Bangladesh and the Dutch for the first time.
By Darren Allan Kyeyune & Innocent Ndawula
Lawrence Ssempijja is an elated lad ever since he first made the cut to the 14-man Cricket Cranes side that will represent at the ICC Africa Division One Twenty20 Qualifier from March 28 - April 4 in Benoni, South Africa.
“Playing for the national team has always been my dream,” the Charity Trust Fund all-rounder told Daily Monitor recently. “This is my opportunity that I take with both hands.”
Ssempijja’s breakthrough came at the expense of seven senior players who were dropped after the failed January ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division Two showpiece in Namibia.
And the Senior Six vacationist knows he has to put in a great deal of effort and consistent performances if he is to keep his place even after South Africa.
“I need to work harder than before if I am to stay on the national front until my late age,” said Ssempijja - a fanatic of legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
“I made it to the national side because of my discipline and work ethic and for that matter, I need to perfect both aspects.”
Ssempijja’s decent variation of medium pace deliveries makes him a key talent for the team. He hopes to help Uganda earn one of the two available tickets to the Global T20 Qualifier in Scotland.
“Ability to offer diverse deliveries can help keep us up the ranks. And even though I am bowler, I can bat and score runs while I fully experience what Team Uganda endures at the global stage,”
Voted MVP at the 2013 ICC U-19 Africa WC Qualifiers, Ssempijja first held the bat and ball 10 years ago while at East Kololo P/S. He is the third member of his family to make the national folder after mentor Ronald Ssemanda and assistant captain Henry Ssenyondo.
“Both of them have encouraged right from the time I was young and I believe I haven’t let them down.” His sibling Simon Ssesaazi is a reserve player for the Benoni-bound side.