Crestfallen Ugandan skipper Davis Arinaitwe Karashani (right) shakes hands with Kenyans after defeat on Wednesday. Uganda has been exposed in Dubai.

The blame game could have been avoided if the batsmen had delivered the runs and the bowlers had snared the wickets. Uganda were feared underdogs at the showpiece as they had either run close or edged each of the top Associates before. But instead that stomach for a fight stayed on the Airbus to Dubai as justified by the mediocre and half-hearted shifts of the 14-man brigade.

It was all rosy and smooth sailing at the start as skipper Davis Arinaitwe Karashani won the Man-of-Match award against USA and Roger Mukasa picked the match accolade against Oman, for his run-a-ball 45. No one sensed that Uganda’s campaign had reached its end even before the tournament had started proper.

When the team narrowly failed to sail over the rope against Namibia (by four runs) and Italy (by 13 runs), the self-belief was cast out of the window. A mental block engulfed the captain Karashani and coach Martin Suji. But on the whole, no one stood tall in the face of adversity.
There were also many panic buttons that were pressed as the batting order was shuffled for every innings.

The players, too, didn’t do any justice to their technical team. The bowlers offered one too many a boundary ball and the fielding, which is the team’s strongest forte, wilted under pressure and leaked so many runs.

The campaign had more sinners than saints. Diminutive Lawrence Ssematimba left Kampala via South Africa for a professional stint with Lenasia CC and Nairobi for the six-match warm-up series as the man on form but he will not want to remember this tour at all. The wicket-keeper bowed out of the tournament with a groin-injury after scratching around for 40 runs in four games, which is a dismal showing by his own standards.

Arthur Kyobe and Arthur Ziraba exhibited strange naivety of the alien conditions in UAE whereas Roger Mukasa was always caught in a trap. The 22-year-old right-hand opening batsman never knew when either to accelerate or consolidate an innings.

Old-horse Benjamin Musoke can still play the game, but he showed he was a tad off the pace for the latest format – Twenty20. Uganda always found itself in a spot of bother when the bowlers, who pose as all-rounders in Uganda’s case, were drafted in to bat ahead of the selected batsmen as the team sought to keep up with the run-rate of chasing big totals.

Team Uganda played every inch like a blind man desperately trying to reach his destination with no guide. The script was torn to threads and ill-advised improvisation condemned the team to bigger defeats as justified by those to Scotland (by 34 runs), Ireland (by 82 runs) and neighbouring rivals Kenya (by 48 runs).

The quartet of Jonathan Ssebanja (78 runs at an average of 20 and 11 wickets), Deus Muhumuza (88 quick-fire runs & 4 wickets), Frank Nsubuga (106 runs & 4 wickets) and (Charles Waiswa (53 runs & 5 wickets) deserve a little pat on the back. They stood out for having come to the party when the going got tough at the preliminary stage.

No victory lap
Uganda Cricket Association chairman Richard Mwami, CEO Justin Ligyalingi, chairman of selectors Andrew Othieno and ex-boss Dr Kato Sebbaale were in Dubai for five days to support the team but never witnessed any victory lap. They must have been cursing why they wasted their time and money.
Back to the drawing board is the usual catch phrase employed whenever a team fails but for the cricketers this should be an eye-opener.

It offers a final chance for the decision makers to take general preparation ahead of big tournaments like the just concluded ‘Associates World Cup’ more seriously or else Uganda will not get out of its slough.

Investing in basic, and yet important, things like a video analyst, physiotherapist, motivational speaker, specialist batting coach and dietitian will do more wonders rather than pledging Shs5m for each player. Financial incentives work but only if the nitty-gritty mentioned earlier is catered for.

To remove the blindfold from any still heart-broken fan, Uganda, despite being African champions, were never going to qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in the first place.

The Qualifier was supposed to gauge the team’s strengths against proven opposition ahead of the next year’s ICC Division III World Cricket League that will either be hosted in Uganda or Bermuda.

The long-term future of the game will depend on whether Uganda can finish among the top two out of six nations and regain its place in Division II as an ICC High Performance Programme country that is entitled to at-least a development grant of $365,000 (an estimated Shs895m) every two years.

And when that fund is regained, the UCA executive should throw caution to the wind and run the game wholly professionally with undivided attention and awareness. Then may be Team Uganda will finally shed off the nearly men’s tag in Associate cricket and give the fans joy and forthwith an everlasting reason to cheer them.

By Innocent Ndawula, Daily Monitor

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