By Faith Munezero

It was the year 2004 when Uganda took the Cricket scene at the international level with a debut appearance at the prestigious ICC Under-19 World Cup, held in Bangladesh.

Nicknamed the Baby Cranes, the young lads aged 19 and under, headed by Kenyan legend Tom Tikolo, breezed their way through the Under-19 Africa/EAP Championship qualifers in Namibia to come in at second place thereby taking one of the only six remaining slots to the 16 - team world cup event. 

The reverie was shortlived however, with three losses in the group stage and two more at Plate stage  that saw Uganda leave as soon as we had come in. But the highlight for the Cranes would undoubtedly be in the M.A Aziz Stadium in Chittagong where they won their final game against Canada by five wickets.

But who are the men that took Uganda to their highest stage yet? Today, in our Throw Back Thursday feature, we look at the members of the iconic team that stirred the course of events for Uganda Cricket history almost 15 years ago in a feat that was later replicated in 2006,  this time in India.

Clive Kyangungu Bigirwa: As captain, he led the team in Bangladesh, contributing his skills as both a right handed batsman and right hand off-break bowler in the  tournament with an average performance by his standards.

An engineer by profession, the former ACC player has since settled in the UK and also served in the Scottish army.

Michael Kintu Wambudhe: Coming from a cricket family that includes siblings Ronnie (umpire) and ACC's’ Aggrey Kintu, he was  one of the three wicket-keepers for the team. He currently plays alongside Aggrey in ACC, duly keeping the wickets and has since become a productive in-swing bowler.

Martin Ondeko: Ondeko was largely responsible for ensuring Team Uganda won a game at the World Cup.

With his man-of-the-match knock of 99 as Uganda chased down Canada’s total of 231 to notch a five-wicket victory with three overs to spare, falling short of a deserved ton.

He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA), a post he has held since 2018 but he was the Operations Manager in the same since 2013.

Denis Musali: It is usually said that wicket keepers are born and not made and Musali is one such person that fits that description.

He was the first choice wicket-keeper and completed the tournament with five brilliant catches. He has represented Uganda in international cricket events and is currently the captain of Wanderers Cricket Club.

Denis Musali keeping wickets against Ireland in 2004 World Cup

Musali, who is not only the head of sales and client relations at Selio but also a writer with Kawowo sports, has also given back to the game and is one the founders of Generation Next Cricket Academy that gave birth to Uganda’s first-ever youth league. This is in addition to his role at Cricket Uganda, a platform that seeks to grow the sport in Uganda, where he is the digital marketing and communications officer.

Hamza Almuzahim Saleh: Undoubtedly the best batsman of his generation. Together with Ondeko, they put on 121 for the third wicket before he was run out for a solid 50 in the victory over Canada.

Hamza Saleh during practice in Kampala before the World Cup

The right-hand batsman averaged 26 runs and went on to captain the team at its second appearance in 2006. He went on to represent the senior side, making his last appearance in national team duty at the ICC World Cricket League Division Two in 201 hosted by New Zealand.

Davis Karashani: The all-rounder was a permanent fixture in the national team and went on to be named national team captain, a role he held until his shock resignation just over three years ago.

Such was his all-round ability that he was named Player of the Tournament at the 2013 ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Bermuda.

Karashani, who left the Cricket Cranes fold citing a persistent knee injury as one of the reasons, currently features for  K.I.C.C.

Like Musali, he is one of the two brainchilds behind the foundation of the Generation Next Cricket Academy.

Arthur Kyobe: His man-of-match knocks during the qualifier in Windhoek ensured Uganda made the World Cup grade but punched way below his belt in Bangladesh. The enigmatic left-hander played four matches and scored just 28 runs - all the runs coming in the consolation win against Canada.

Kyobe went on to play semi-professional cricket for Oman-based side Passage to India and Sikh Union in Kenya, as well the senior national men's cricket  team but currently plays for Challengers in the domestic cricket league.

The 2013 Uspa Cricketer of the Year is also one of a few batsmen in the country to have scored more than 200 runs in an innings and is in the top tier of batsmen in the country.

Raymond Otim: A half-brother to Patrick Ochan, Otim stood out as the best fielder on the team. He later added leg spin to his repertoire which made him hard to ignore for national team duty. Raymond is now settled in Newzealand where he works and lives. 

Patrick Ochan: A born workaholic, Ochan earned his keep by bowling a whole lot of 47 overs. Later he successfully sought asylum in Australia after guiding the Cricket Cranes to victory at the 2007 ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Darwin.

Currently, he turns out for West Torrens in Adelaid. He also represented Uganda in the tennis Davis Cup.

Jimmy Okello: Was on the team as a top order batsman but did not have the best of tournaments. He sought asylum in Australia together with Ochan. Unlike the latter, he has not featured for the Cricket Cranes again but had made a name for himself on the pitch. He plays as a striker for Adelaide Cobras and always donates some kit to charity when in Kampala.

Fred Isabirye: Fred also comes for a cricket family with is young brother Charles Waiswa opening for bowling for the cricket cranes while the sister Justine Musubika has featured for the lady cricket cranes. Much was expected of him going into the World Cup after big knocks in the qualifiers, despite the brief stay while at the ICC world cup stage .Isabirye kept his pride intact with consistent shifts on the local league in Uganda. He also lives in Australia and features for Tornado Bee while on holiday.

Fred isabirye was an explosive all rounder for the U19 team

Emmanuel Isaneez: The paceman did not disappoint. He finished with a haul of nine wickets including best figures of 6/37 in a man-of-match performance against Bangladesh.

A couple of years ago, he featured for the Rwanda national tea and has worked with Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB) as the Uganda ambassador and assistant coach of the national Under-19 team.

Isaneez currently plays for the national cricket team as well as for league champions Aziz Damani in the local league. He has also given back to the sport, and currently supports the mini cricket initiative in Kasese, a region that has consistently won mini cricket leagues.

Ronald Ssemanda: He was another versatile sportsman. An all-rounder on the team and with an ability to play as other games including hockey, tennis and badminton.

Ssemanda has since also represented Uganda in two first-class matches (in the 2009–10 Intercontinental Shield) and multiple Twenty20 matches. In the East Africa Cup and East Africa Premier League, he played for the Rwenzori Warriors in both the 2011–12 and 2012 editions.

The solid player has not featured for the national team since the knock he suffered after running into teammate Brian Masaba in 2011. He has also lecturered at UCU Mukono.

PS ; Contributions from Elvis Senono and Innocent Ndawula.


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