- Published in National League
A n uncomfortable lull has settled over Uganda’s senior men cricket team. The Cricket Cranes are currently in Qatar figuring in only their second tour following last year’s astonishing relegation to the ICC World Cricket League Division Four.
The relegation was initially greeted in unsparing terms, but there has since been a sharp reversal in tone. Before departing for the tour, which will have stopovers in not just Qatar but also India, Cricket Cranes coach Steve Tikolo spoke candidly with local media. Tikolo said the preparations should be viewed more through the lens of an amplifier as opposed to clarifier. The Kenyan rang a slew of changes, with the pick seeing Davis Karashani, Arthur Kyobe and Lawrence Ssematimba overlooked.
While Karashani failed to extricate himself from academic duties at Makerere University where he is pursuing a Law degree, Kyobe and Ssematimba were in no uncertain terms deemed surplus to requirements.
The trio’s absence has made for an increasingly feverish atmosphere in the sense that the spotlight has been put on the three crucial facets of captaincy, opening gambit and wicketkeeping.
If Zephaniah Arinaitwe attacks the new ball with the trademark aggression that continues to belie his teenage years, Kyobe’s epitaph will well and truly be authored. It will in all honesty be a tragic footnote for the left hander whose career has been dazzlingly complicated. And that is putting it mildly.
Not one to go gently in the fading of afternoon into evening, expect Kyobe to chime with renewed purpose regardless of how Arinaitwe fares on the slow wickets in Qatar and India. Kyobe is not one to cower easily and he will stake his pressing claim to relevance on everything and anything.
The Challengers opening bat doesn’t have to be at his zestful best to talk up his chances. Such is his belief; it often arouses a steely and unflappable temperament. However, like a double edged sword, the powerful strain of the belief can either be a source of happiness or unending frustration.
Mirroring the opening gambit is the question of the captaincy. The question wouldn’t arise at all but for a gruelling undergraduate degree programme at Makerere University’s School of Law. The programme has seen Karashani and the Cricket Cranes not gently bump against one other as much as clash. Owing to this, Karashani’s availability for the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament in Malaysia rests on a cornerstone of conjecture.
It’s not clear whether the erstwhile Cricket Cranes skipper will be writing his exams when the tournament occupies the backend of April and first week of May. If the two fail to meet each other halfway, then a new captain will have to be named.
Such an eventuality will leave Uganda heavily depleted. Not only would Karashani’s off break thrive on the slow Malaysian wickets, but also the player has over the years retooled his game by infusing his batting with dogged determination.
The 30-year-old’s captaincy — typified by aggressive field settings — will also be sorely missed. Roger Mukasa, who was named captain for the tour of Qatar and India, may be a gung-ho batsman, but his field settings are a tad too conservative.
It is hard to tell whether an approach that entails playing safe and letting opponents make mistakes will bring vast rewards for Uganda. For now, many Cricket Cranes fans’ preoccupation is with how the captaincy will affect Mukasa’s performance with the bat.
Elsewhere, with Ssematimba out of the picture, the burden of keeping wickets in Qatar and India will be shouldered by Naeem Bardai and youngster Fred Achelam. The glovework of both players is decent enough. While Bardai contributes more than Achelam with the bat, the former’s intermittent availability doesn’t stand him in good stead.
Achelam kept wickets as Uganda lost its first match of the bilateral series with Qatar Thursday. Mukasa complained about the weather being “too heavy” and “the ball...not travelling as it does back home.” Chasing 131 for victory in a T20 match, Mukasa and Arinaitwe brought up their 50 partnership well inside 10 overs, but Cricket Cranes lacked much-needed firepower after the two explosive openers departed.
This along with other problems (a knee injury picked up by Lloyd Paternott) means — the lull, or be it uncomfortable one, notwithstanding — it is pretty much a case of back to the future for the Cricket Cranes.
By Robert Madoi
They may not be an exceptional side but Kutchi Tigers capitalized on their opponents’ self-destructive mode to beat Kampala Institute of Cricket Clubs (KICC) by 66 runs at Kyambogo on Sunday.
The Sudhir Ruparelia-sponsored side has themselves to blame for the result that ended their three-match unbeaten streak in the Men’s Division One 50-Over League.
“It’s sad we lost but I attribute that to the lots of internal disorganisation we had,” admitted KICC skipper Hanumant Katkar.
Justification included on-field arguments and Katkar reportedly lost control of his dressing room in the heated post-match meeting. But that takes nothing away from the season’s surprise package Tigers.
The Indian-oriented club was not only gifted with a fourth league in five matches. They also became the fifth different side to move top of the eight-team log on-level with Nile (22 points) but with a better Net Run Rate (NRR). “The feeling (to be at the top) is so unfamiliar,” smiling captain Alphesh Hirani said.
Formed in 2013, Tigers earned promotion last season behind KICC but are now even sure of surviving relegation this year. “For now, I believe we are safe. We don’t have much pressure in the coming games.” Hirani added.
When Katkar opted to field first, Tigers relied on Kenyan import Hiren Varaiya who struck a decent 82-ball 53*. He also shared a 103-run third stand with Nariv Kishore (51 off 52) for Tigers to set 168-6 in 37 overs.
The lunch time showers forced umpires Grace Mutyagaba and James Bamulese to revise the score via Duckworth & Lewis Method and KICC needed 212 runs to win from 37 overs.
Left-arm spinner Varaiya (3/29), Kanti Vekariya (2/28) and Shailesh Halai (2/21) consistently broke partnerships and resistance from opener Abdallah Lubega (43 off 52) and Assadu Seiga (44 off 56) only gave momentary optimism. Eventually, KICC’s bubble burst at 145-10 with five overs to spare.
NATIONAL MEN’S 50-OVER LEAGUE
Charity TF 120/10 Tornado 121/3
(Tornado won by seven wickets)
Kutchi Tigers 168/6  KICC 145/10 D/L
(Tigers won by 66 runs)
Aziz Damani 130/10 Premier 131/8
(Premier won by two wickets)
Jinja SS 93/10  Mwiri 88/7 D/L
(Mwiri won by three wickets)
SKLPS 351/9  KC Budo 88/10 D/L
(SKLPS won by 143 runs)
DIVISION ONE TABLE STANDINGS
1 Kutchi Tigers - 22 points
2 Nile - 22
3 Tornado - 21
4 KICC - 19
5 Tornado B - 18