Tales of a Ug Cricket Fan Understanding the Big Leagues

You mean cricket has a world cup? Since when??

I wondered to myself a few days after the national men’s team - the Cricket Cranes - emerged champions in the just recently concluded Division four World Cricket League (WCL) tournament. I had just read an article in one of the dailies that mentioned how this particular victory marked the beginning of their dream to play in the world cup and I thought, hold up. How does that work? And with all the twenty something years I have lived on this earth, why I am just getting this information now? Some cricket fan I am!

The Cricket Cranes Pose With The WCL Div 4 Trophy In Malaysia

Obviously, the next question would be, how does Uganda qualify for the ICC World Cup?

I figured this simple question would have an equally simple answer, but because life has never been easy, this answer followed suit. Nothing prepared me (and accompanying reactions) for the answer I received! From confusion to surprise to shock and even anger at some point, this somewhat clueless fan embarked on a journey towards discovering what it would take for the Pearl of Africa to reach the ‘big leagues’, so to speak. And this seemingly innocent question opened my eyes, and maybe will open yours as well, to a whole new world of cricket that I never knew existed but first, things first…

Understanding the basics

Firstly, it’s the Cricket World Cup not the ICC World Cup. Are we clear? Good.

Secondly, do you know that cricket is probably the second most popular sport in the world? With populous countries like India, Australia, and even Pakistan being so obsessed with it – it’s not difficult to see why. (And yes, soccer is probably the most popular) so it is only plausible that it would have world a tournament of its own that features the world’s top national teams. But I asked myself, why have I never heard of it until now? And more importantly, has my beloved Uganda ever featured in it?

Clarke and McCullum Pose With The 2015 Cricket World Cup

Thirdly, ‘ICC is to cricket as FIFA is to soccer.’ The International Cricket Council or ICC for short, governs cricket all over the world and their headquarters are based in the luxurious city of Dubai, UAE.

Last but not least, the Cricket World Cup much like the FIFA World Cup, takes place every four years and within that period are a series of qualification tournaments that cricket nations participate in order to make the cut. But like most things, the devil is always in the details. I was in for a rude awakening.

The qualification process                                    

Whereas the FIFA has continental tournaments, where a particular number of the best in each of the six continents are selected to participate in the world cup, the ICC has two major qualification tournaments that cricket nations can participate in to possibly make it to the Cricket World Cup namely, the ICC ODI Championships and the World Cricket League.

ODI is short for One Day International, a format of limited overs cricket played between cricket nations with international status where two teams face a fixed number of overs normally fifty. It’s like a verification badge on twitter; if you don’t have it, then the limited overs matches you play are not recognized as international. Out of the 107 cricket nations world-wide, only 16 nations have this status and no, Uganda is not one of them.

 

Nepal, Along With Afghanistan, Netherlands and Ireland Got Their ODI Status in 2018

Why? Because, 12 of the 16 are Test nations and thus have permanent ODI status. The remaining four join this league of elite based on their performance at the preceding World Cup Qualifier, but unlike the 12, these four get temporary status for a period of four years or until the next world cup tournament.

I know what you are thinking, what about the rest? Well, the other 92 try their luck in the next qualification process which you’ve come across here often; the World Cricket League or WCL for short. It consists of five divisions having the grand total of 24 participants (I sense another question, but hold your horses), who have to compete amongst themselves to be promoted or at the very least keep from being relegated from the league. So again, what about the rest? It seems the ICC ranks all the cricket nations based on their finishing position in the most recent qualifying tournament and only 24 get to be in the league of which Uganda is among! Exclusive, right?

Team Uganda In A Recent Match Discussing Strategy

And exclusivity seems to be one of ICC’s strongest features when it come to the World Cup. While other world cup tournaments for sports like soccer have up to 32 participating nations, golf with 28, volleyball with 24, rugby with 20 and even netball with 16 nations and so on ICC only allows tenparticipating nations.

Wait, what?!

Ten nations! The entire process of qualifying for the Cricket World Cup is akin to carrying out a sieve analysis on 20 kilograms of sand using a 0.045mm sieve – annoyingly slow and so selective! And that is not even the half of it. One would assume that, like in Religious Education, participation in the qualification tourneys is either one or or the other. You lose out in one, you try again in four years but it surprisingly doesn’t work that way. Remember that elite group of 16? Those who don’t qualify in the first round actually get another opportunity, while the rest get theirs a lot later – four years later to be exact. Why? How? Maybe looking at how Uganda would qualify could help explain things.

The journey - hypothetically

Uganda is unfortunately out of the running for the next Cricket World Cup, which will take place in 2019. But with the next one being in 2023, the journey has to start now, because as you have probably seen, the competition is stiffer than a board!

Image result for cricket world cup 2019 logo

Important to note, however, is that out of the ten available spots in the Cricket World Cup, eight of them automatically go to the host nation and the seven best teams in the ODI Championship. The remaining four then proceed to the World Cup Qualifier, waiting for the six representatives from the ICC World Cricket League, to compete for the two remaining spots.

Lacking the ODI status, Uganda’s best alternative for qualification would have to be through the World Cricket League but the team has to get to the qualifiers first.

World Cup Qualifiers

Composed of five divisions, only the top four nations in division one and top two in division two of the World Cricket League get to progress into the World Cup Qualifiers. But with Uganda in Division three, the Cricket Cranes have to play through their division’s tournament and emerge in the top two in order to be promoted to Division two. (You can actually catch this particular tournament from 9th – 24th November 2018, in Oman or you can follow @CricketUganda for updates and news regarding this on their social media platforms.)

Coach Jackson and The Boys in Preparations For The WCL Div 3 Spectacle in November

Uganda and the other nation it would be promoted with, say Kenya (EAC patriotism, right?) would then compete with the four teams from the preceding ICC World Cricket League Championship, who are also the top four in Division one, to determine the final two spots in the 2023 World Cup Qualifier. Basically, 24 teams compete for only two World Cup Qualifier spots and aiming for one of two remaining Cricket World Cup slots that they may not even get because four of ODI status nations who already had a chance before, are also gunning for the same!

Just let that sink in for a minute.

With the ten nations determined, the teams would be split into two groups of five each, playing a round robin match. Uganda would then have to finish amongst the top three in their group to be able to proceed to the next round of play known as the Super Six whereby results, net run rates as well as the points attained for the progressing teams are carried forward. The ‘super six’ then play the qualifiers from the other group while those of the bottom two teams in each group are discarded, instead playing for the remaining positions seven to ten. The teams unlucky enough to emerge in the bottom two positions are relegated to WCL Division 2. Imagine having your ODI status stripped away like that - embarrassing.

With the two remaining spots going to the best two teams in the Super Six, of which one would have to belong to the Cricket Cranes. And that friends, is how Uganda would qualify for the Cricket World Cup. But despite all this I found myself down the proverbial rabbit hole, puzzling over some things like, why the rigidity and small numbers at a World Cup? Maybe I will have my answers next week, in my quest to understand the big leagues more.

 

Cricket Cranes coach Tikolo preaches belief

It has been eons since Uganda either last scored runs in the excess of 250 or chased down targets of 260 plus in a competitive game.
Uganda’s game, especially with the bat, was all about giving deliveries either a gung-ho or dead-straight bat approach.
In such a scenario, it was either hitting out of trouble and hope luck stays on your side or just playing delivers, especially those from spin bowlers, with a dead straight bat in fear of crumbling or losing wickets.
The art of grafting had been heard of but never applied because it wasn’t in Ugandans’ DNA. And local batsmen’s way of playing was suicidal and not productive over consistent games.

But on Steve Tikolo’s Second Coming as Uganda coach, he has worked overtime to find a formula to Uganda’s batting madness. And although the Cricket Cranes remain a work in progress, the results are starting show.
“We can compete with these sides (foreign franchises) on daily basis and even beat them if we believe in our process,” Tikolo told Daily Monitor after the Cricket Cranes picked up their third win - a six-wicket win over Kwazulu Natal Inland Academy - on this ongoing Tour of South Africa on Monday.

“We have the talent in our side to finish off games clinically with calculated risks. The guys have got to continue playing to their strengths and execute the game plans. Hard work is a must in this game of cricket.”
Uganda play their sixth game against KZN franchise today and will be eager to continue making hay as they prepare for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) Division III showpiece scheduled for this November in Oman.

By Innocent Ndawula

Teenage centurion Alungat dreams of playing for Lady Cricket Cranes

For a cricketer, a century is a big milestone for a batsman as is a hat-trick or maiden career wicket for a bowler. At Soroti Light Secondary School, Eunice Alungat is on cloud nine after her first ton.

The teenager now regrets less about giving cricket time after she made 114 runs not out as her side Soroti Challengers bossed opponents JACC enroute a 259-run victory at Jinja Oval on Saturday.
“I felt good,” the 17-year-old said. “…because it had never happened in life to me as a batter,” the right-hander offered.

Alungat only began playing cricket in Senior Two (2015). And that’s the last time a century happened in women’s cricket.
There will be little wonder if Alungat pursues a cricket career after she has completed her Geography, Economics and Art studies next year. “My dream is to play for Uganda’s national team as I am inspired by Joyce Mary Apio and Naome Kayondo,” she says. Kayondo is one of the nine other lady cricketers to ever score a ton in Uganda’s history.

Now opener Alungat will feel she is on the right track after she made 14 boundaries in her knock off 110 balls in 40 overs. “I was patient,” she said. Alungat is the only non-national team player to score a ton, much to her coach Ivan Kakande’s delight.
“She is one of the talented girls in the set-up and a good listener who enjoys the game,” Kakande said of the gem.

 

ALUNGAT AT A GLANCE 
Full name: Eunice Alungat
Date of birth: December 18, 2000
Age: 17
School: Soroti Light SS
Club: Soroti Challengers
Class: Senior 5
Combination: GEA/ICT
Started playing: 2015
Batting style: Right-hand
Bowling: Right-arm slow
Best batting figures: 114 runs not out

By DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

Global star Tarrus Riley new Uganda Cricket Ambassador

For American-born Jamaican Tarrus Riley, cricket flows in his blood. Even before he could say anything, the Reggae Artiste was visibly excited to catch some action as Uganda’s African champions played out in a duel dubbed ‘Tarrus Riley Cricket Carnival’ at Lugogo yesterday.
His attention was undivided at the boundary as he got animated between the beautiful shots played and animated wicket celebrations by the girls. And Riley welcomed the appointment as Uganda Cricket Association (UCA)’s new global brand ambassador.
“It is part of me to support young guys and give them a chance and inspiration,” Riley answered when asked on his unrelenting role to lend a hand to several charitable causes across the globe.
“Music and sports rhyme along together. It is a good feeling being in Uganda. Watching the girls play makes me feel joy and for the girls to know someone like me is cheering for them makes them work harder to achieve success. Uganda is just like home and I am having the time of my life.”
Jazz Safari’s Tshaka Mayanja, whose brand sponsors the Men and Women’s National League for the last five years, said Jazz Safari was intent on promoting talent with a special attachment to women’s cricket. 
“We are going to be here for long time in the future and Tarrus (Riley), too.

He is willing to lend a hand in whichever way he can. Uganda cricket can bank on him as they continue to strive for success. We urge you to give back in equal measure by turning up in droves for the Swangz Avenue Concert of The Year here on Friday,” said Mayanja.
UCA Board Women’s Representative Mary Makumbi handed over to the 39-year-old superstar with a Lady Cricket Cranes cap and jersey emblazoned with No.1 for his new role. And then captain Kevin Awino and assistant skipper Janet Mbabazi presented to him the two trophies Uganda won in United Arab Emirates and Windhoek, Namibia, where they won the African title last year.

By INNOCENT NDAWULA & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

Cricket Cranes captain Mukasa welcomes Africa T20 Cup invite

Cricket Cranes skipper Roger Mukasa says playing in the revamped Africa Twenty20 Cup will give Uganda a ‘priceless’ chance to get international exposure ahead of the Division III International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) in Oman this November.
“We are looking at this opportunity as a priceless one to play against the best franchises in South Africa,” said Mukasa when news filtered in that tournament organisers Cricket South Africa (CSA) had officially announced Uganda as the replacements for Ghana.
The West Africans cited logistical reasons as their notion for pulling out of the expanded 2018/19 Africa T20 Cup which is set to take place in September with the preliminary round on September 14-16 followed by the finals’ weekend on September 23-24.
“We are going to face the best bowlers on the continent and our seamers are going to have to do well against proven hitters of the ball. This will help us improve on our bowling at the death and improving our power-hitting especially in the powerplays,” added Mukasa. Uganda join other African nations including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia in the competition. 
The Cricket Cranes are in Pool A alongside KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Easterns, Western Province and KwaZulu-Natal Coastal. 
The exciting T20 action will take place in 4 coastal venues in Pietermaritzburg, Oudtshoorn, East London and Paarl featuring 12 CSA Affiliates, 3 Associate Members and 5 ICC Africa teams taking place over two thrilling weekends of T20 cricket.
“We are glad Uganda are in because they’re a capable replacement. This event will provide the ideal opportunity for them to test themselves against some of the best young cricketers on the continent. I know Uganda will be ready to compete, and we are excited as we wait for the highly anticipated competition to get underway,” said ICC Africa Development Officer Justine Ligyalingi. Uganda will remain in South Africa following the conclusion of the Africa T20 Cup to play 50-over warm-up matches against KwaZulu-Natal Inland and the South African Academy respectively.

POOLS - AFRICA TWENTY20 CUP

Pool A - Pietermaritzburg: 
KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Easterns, 
KwaZulu-Natal Coastal, Uganda and 
Western Province.
Pool B – Oudtshoorn: 
South Western Districts, Free State, 
Gauteng, Northerns and Zimbabwe;
Pool C – East London: 
Border, Eastern Province, Kenya, 
Mpumalanga and Namibia
Pool D – Paarl: 
Boland, Limpopo, Nigeria, Northern Cape 
and North West.

By INNOCENT NDAWULA & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

Mukono’s Miyagi tons it up on Day Two of Cricket Week

Sixteen-time record winners Busoga College Mwiri and defending champions Jinja Secondary School made it a perfect three after three matches on Day Two of the 2018 Schools Cricket Week yesterday.

U-19 star Ronald Opio was the star as Mwiri defeated Rwanda Select XI by six wickets at Lugogo in the morning with spell of 2 for 9 that restricted the visitors to 96 all out in 18.1 overs and later returned with the bat for 21-ball 27 to knock off the desired runs in 15.3 overs.

Opio was at it in the afternoon with 15 runs off 13 balls as Mwiri chased down Masaka SS’ set target of 57 in just 7.5 overs for a seven-wicket win. Jinja SS also added to Monday’s perfect start with a commanding nine-wicket triumph over St James SS Jinja after the later set on 87.

Yesterday’s centurion Okecho managed 29 off 23 to remain atop the runs charts but it was Joel Elelu (4/3 in 4) that took the match gong.

Miyagi’s day
But the news of the day belonged to 15-year-old Juma Miyagi, who plies his trade for Ceylon Lions in the National League. The Mukono Parents all-rounder picked up two Man of the Match awards as his school overcame St James SS Jinja by 33 runs and Ntare School by 157 runs at King’s College Budo.

In the first game, Miyagi bowled impeccable lines enroute figures of 4 for 9 in 3.2 overs to restrict St James, who were chasing 243, to just 86 runs all out.

In the afternoon, the Baby Cranes player put on a masterclass with the bat to notch the tournament’s second ton of 104 off 49 balls. Coming on Miyagi peppered the boundary ropes 16 times with seven fours and nine monster sixes against Ntare School, who are just making a return to the national championship. Ntare’s consolation is that they had earlier got off the mark against Aga Khan School who they outlasted by 43 runs. 
Day Three promises more fireworks today.

By Innocent Ndawula & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

inja SSS pursue title defence at star-lit Schools Cricket Week

It is now six years since a side defended the Uganda Cricket Association-organised Boys Schools’ Cricket Week tournament.
Kololo Secondary School is the last team to win back-to-back titles when they did a sweep between 2007-3013 bar 2009 when nemesis Busoga College Mwiri.

Since, the trophy has rotated between Mukono Parents, Mwiri and Kololo before Jinja Secondary School won it last year.
One forever stand-out pillar in Jinja SSS’ cricket is coach Habibu Mugalula. He has served the game diligently at that institution, making the girls’ side a powerhouse in the national league and schools’ cricket.

Last year, Mugalula ended Jinja’s 15-year wait for a Boys’ Week gong after they beat Mwiri by six wickets with 68 balls remaining in the final.

The plan is to defend the title, some Jinja failed to do in 2003. “We shall try play, compete and take it game by game,” Mugalula told Sunday Monitor before teams assembled at Makerere College for the 2018 edition yesterday. “Of course, respect for opponents is paramount on my side but it’s my dream to defend it,” he said.

Mugalula is banking on three star players Cosmas Kyewuta, Acram Nsubuga and Isaac Ssekatawa who is recovering fast from a nasty accident. But Perry Wazombe, who was Jinja’s best player last year with the MVP honour comprising 303 runs with best score of 105, 10 wickets and 6 fielding dismissals, crossed to rival team Mwiri this year.

However, during the Eastern Region Qualifiers, Jinja ably chased a target of 117 runs in 13.3 overs to beat Mwiri and win the tournament unbeaten.

But Jinja must not rest on its laurels as the Emmanuel Isaneez and Daniel Batuwa-tutored Mwiri is filled with U-19 talent like Trevor Bukenya, Wazombe, Ramathan Ochimi, Ronald Opio and Ashraf Senkubuge who was the best wicket-keeper with 12 dismissals last year.

It is going to be quite a star-lit showpiece with in-form batsman Zephaniah Arinaitwe featuring for Mukono’s St. John’s High School.

The draws were set to be conducted last evening at Lugogo.

By DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

Back to back KBSC Night Cricket titles for ‘classy’ Keshwala Boyz

As the lights dimmed on Season 6 of the Kampala Boys Sports Club (KBSC) Premier League, Keshwala Boyz etched their names into history books as only the second franchise to win back-to-back titles on Saturday (July 21).

Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) Board Trustee Ranmal Keshwala’s team defeated Haandi XI by 44 runs under the floodlights in a pressure-game that was watched by an animated and packed-to-the-rafters Lugogo Stadium.

Haandi XI, who also came close last season before falling short in the playoffs, must have been believing that this was their year after captain Irfan Afridi won the toss and stuck in Keshwala Boyz. Their plans to stifle star-studded Keshwala Boyz batting line-up seemed to be on course with the scoreboard reading 59 for 2 in 10 overs.

But when Afridi introduced himself into the attack, Ronak Patel (47 off 37), Rakesh Kahar (38 off 24) chanced their arms at anything within their reach enroute to smoking the Cricket Cranes mystery bowler for 56 runs in just four overs at 14 per over.

The set 148 runs – a target that was within Haandi XI’s reach. But Haandi went for glory and paid the price for their gung-ho style. From 30 for no loss after 3 overs, Rakesh Kahar (3/14 in 4) and Dinesh Nakrani (2/26 in 4) pegged back the batsmen to give Keshwala Boyz the advantage at 33 for 6 in 7.3 overs.

Procession to victory
From then on it was a mere procession to victory for Keshwala Boyz despite one defiant knock of 49 off 35 by all-rounder Bilal Hassun, who took a perfect consolation prize in Man of Match for the final.

“We deserve this trophy and we are still hungry to pocket another one next year,” said Ranmal, soon after UCA chairman Bashir Ansasiira handed over the glittering trophy and Shs10m cheque to the winners. Runners-up Haandi pocketed Shs5m plus a trophy and their star man Gurpreet Singh also scooped the Best Bowler’s accolade with 26 wickets.

The climax was every fan’s dream with lots of entertainment as well as UCA, who benefitted with a cash tonic of Shs15m from KBSC to help develop the game further at the grassroots level.

TOP PERFORMERS
MVP:
Rakesh Kahar (Keshwala Boyz) 1128 points
Best Bowler:
Gurpreet Singh (Haandi XI) 23 wickets
Best Batsman
Riazat Ali Shah (Damani Hunza) 343 runs

FORMER WINNERS
2013: Wines & Spirits
2014: Wines & Spirits
2015: Aziz Damani
2016: Cosmos Warriors
2017: Keshwala Boyz
2018: Keshwala Boyz

KBSC PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON 6

Result – Season 6 Finale
Keshwala Boyz 148/6 Haandi XI 104/10
Keshwala Boyz won by 44 runs
Result – Plate Cup final
Avengers 61/10 Abacus 62/2
Abacus XI won by 2 wickets

By INNOCENT NDAWULA

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