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Rwanda captain Denis Mukama reckons a second-placed finish in the World Cricket League Division 3 tournament, starting tomorrow in Malawi, just won't do if the team is to realise its potential. "The truth of matter is coming second isn't an option for us," said the Ugandan-born 30-year-old. "Yes we would like to win this event because it is our gateway to the next level, and with the hardwork the boys have put in and the morale in the camp, the trophy is destined for Rwanda."
Eight members of the Rwandan squad for the tournament were born in the country, a fact which Mukama sees as an indication of what lies in store for a country, where the game is so new. "With the youngsters coming up through the development program, Rwanda will be a force to reckon with in future," Mukama said.
There are six teenagers in the squad, with three - Audifax Byiringiro, Bob Bashir Songa and Derrick Bayingana - just 13 years old. And there's likely to be more coming through if the popularity of the sport at the youth level in Rwanda is any indication.
"Cricket is gaining popularity among the youth in our country, particularly in schools," Mukama said. "There is a significant increase in participation of young kids in cricket tournaments like the schools cricket week and other under-age group tournaments."
One schools tournament, important to the game's development, is the Coca-Cola tournament in Uganda, for which Rwanda send a combined team. It's another sign of the close cricket links Uganda, the birthplace of Rwandan coach William Kamanyi, Mukama and Emmanuel Byiringiro, has with its small western neighbour.
They add some experience to the squad along with several Indian-born players, including former national captain, Srinath Vardhineni.
A problem though, in the growth in popularity of schools cricket in Rwanda, is the lack of sufficient facilities and equipment. There is only one ground in Rwanda, which Mukama cited as an obvious impediment to meeting the surge in demand.
"Currently we have one ground with Flickx matting which is used for league games meaning that we can only operate a limited number of games at a time," he said.
The other countries taking part in the tournament are Gambia, Lesotho, Morocco, Sierra Leone and the hosts Malawi.
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