Uganda December 30, 2008

Uganda in 2008

Innocent Ndawula, a sports writer with Uganda's Daily Monitor looks back at the country's fortunes in 2008

Innocent Ndawula, a sports writer with Uganda's Daily Monitor, looks back at the country's fortunes in 2008

And the cricket oscars go to... 2008 was undoubtedly better for Ugandan cricket, but again, it was only good and not great. The decisive time is going to be in January 2009 when the senior team takes on the world for a berth at the 2011 World Cup. These are the awards.

Grandest entrance Mohammed Barney Ebrahim! He arrived on a Sunday evening July 13, was chauffered to Hotel Africana and later unveiled on Monday morning at the home of cricket in Lugogo. The game was changing, quicker than anyone imagined. 48-year-old Barney, a former South Africa National Cricket Academy and South Africa ‘A’ coach was being unveiled as new head coach, taking over from Kenyan Franco Otieno. Surrounded by the big wigs of the game, albeit keeping the financial details away from the menu, Barney’s terms of contract were spelt out with qualification in Argentina ranking highest on the list. UCA went the extra mile to court the big man but the team will have to ‘dig deep’ like Barney likes to say.

Highest point There were wins over Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) from England, Afripals and Kenya ‘A’ but the scenes of delirium in Nairobi when Uganda bloodied the noses of the Zimbabweans by 17 runs (D/L Method) in their pre-tournament warm-up on the Kenya tour in October will live in the memories of many for a long time.

And it was no fluke. Zimbabwe came out charging with the captain of the day Hamilton Masakadza setting the tone for a big total but Uganda outplayed them in every department. The African giants grew increasingly flustered in the final overs but the batsmen Arthur Kyobe (51), Joel Olweny (31) and Roger Mukasa Galiwango (18) kept their heads and when the heavens came down, Uganda was 17 runs past the required target. One swallow doesn’t make a year great but it sure makes you feel better.

Oldie of the season When he lost his job as UCA chairman during the polls, William Kibuuka-Musoke looked like he had finally packed up his cricket gear and set for a quieter life on the sidelines. But then, cricket is life to him.

His brainchild Tornado ‘B’ suffered notable absentees including Kenneth Kamyuka who earned a contract with Toronto-based Brampton Masters CC, national team call-ups to a couple of his players and they came calling for the veteran’s wit. Kabuki’s life changed. He was instrumental in Tornado B’s Champions Trophy success, forming an impressive new ball-partnership with Moses Otiti. Wickets didn’t come in hatfuls but the season will be memorable as apart from financing the club, spending a fortune on the professionals, he was instrumental in helping them scoop their maiden title since the club’s inauguration in 2005.

Unlikely hero Africa Cricket Club’s Daniel Strachan never thought he would play any cricket when he got employment in Uganda. But like any cricket lover, he packed his kit bag and the rest is history. The Aussie joined fading giants ACC, coming along with him the big fighting Aussie heart. He instilled belief into the misfiring former champions and became the most-dreaded opening bowler in the league. His batting was up there too. He helped ACC stave off relegation and his award as ‘ACC Player of the Season’ was worthwhile.

Lowest point The total no-show against province and academy sides in South Africa during the one-month build up tour for the Division III World Cricket League scheduled for Argentina in January left many doubting whether our team could compete. But the time spent at the High Performance Center (HPC) in Pretoria was dedicated to training and many will want to look at it as water under the bridge.

But the lowest point of the season has got to be the untimely departure of the cheeky Henry ‘Santos’ Ssebulime (RIP). A jolly-good fellow with charisma like no one else. A former national team player, who opted for cricket ahead of soccer, Santos had risen to the rank of national team manager for the ladies team and his death left a bitter taste in many’s mouths. The Devil of Death clawed in form a drunken driver that Sunday morning of January 6, taking amiable Santos away from this materialistic world to possibly a better place where honey and milk flow for eternity.

Desperate signing Not that it’s any necessary to labour the point, but Tornado ‘B’s signing of the Kenyan duo of Josephat Ababu and Francis Obuya was a very depressing moment. It was the most desperate of solutions to the club’s problems and bid to stay on course for the coveted National League title. And was only going to end one way!

In their only match for the club, the pair managed no more than 28 runs and 1 wicket. Tornado B lost that game to Wanderers and forthwith its grip on the title. Big spending Tornado B’ were made to believe the hard way; that money, clearly, isn’t the answer to everything.

Top performer In the end, Tornado B had a forgettable season but for a long time they were frontrunners in all competitions. That was partly due to Ronald Ssemanda, and his stand-out performances. The 20-year-old all-rounder didn’t feature for the national team on its travels because of academic obligations at Aga Khan but his record at the local level stood tall. He piled an excess of 160 runs in his two innings during the Castle Champions Trophy to prove his prowess.

In the league, Ssemanda raked up 315 runs at 52.5 and snared 12 wickets. The adjudicators duly crowned him as Man of Series and Yosia Matovu Young

Player of the Year. The selectors further rewarded the youngster by naming him on the 14-man team that will represent Uganda in the Buenos Airies tournament.

New kids on the block Dr. Kato Sebbaale always had strong views on how cricket should be run and it was deserved that ‘persuasion talk’ from the elders within the fraternity saw him stand and assume power. This year provided the new Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) boss a chance to “get cricket right”, after a forgettable year in 2007. Sebbaale is an eloquent talker and his decision and actions, too, have been of big impact. There is still a lot of food on his plate, though, but Sebbaale might just be the man. Junior Kwebiiha and Richard Mwami were the other new men assuming responsibility roles as senior team captain and manager respectively, although for them it a second reign to those posts.

Best quote “This group of guys reminds me of the West Indies team. They are very talented, full of life and bubbling with a lot of enthusiasm. I only have to work on their technique and mental preparedness. I’m focused on making them the best team in the continent after South Africa.”

Coach Mohammed Barney Ebrahim, never one to mince his words, gives his forthright view on the Uganda cricket team after his first week in charge.

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo