ICC Intercontinental Shield September 12, 2010

Tension underlies Uganda's trip to Namibia

Colin Macbeth

Colin Macbeth

When the Uganda national cricket team set off for South Africa last Saturday they had one intention in mind: to give Namibia a good thumping in their own backyard.

September 18 sees the start of their four-day Intercontinental Shield match against the ‘kaburu’ (Boers), a match likely to be sweating with tension after its unpopular transfer by the International Cricket Council (ICC) from Kampala to Windhoek on security grounds.

The move followed the Al-Shabaab bombings in which scores of people were killed at Kyadondo rugby ground, just a stone’s throw from the main cricket ground, Lugogo. But the decision left players and cricket-lovers in Uganda in dismay and some vowed vengeance - on the field of play. Both teams have plenty to play for, as whichever side wins the Windhoek fixture will go on to the Shield final against UAE in Dubai in November. And that means money.

Already there are murmurings that the whole thing was a ‘fix’; that it didn’t need the July 11 bombs to persuade ICC to shift the fixture from East Africa to a southern part of the Continent; that the visit to Kampala by ICC chief security adviser Sean Carroll was just a smokescreen for a decision already confirmed.

Whatever the real reasons, the Ugandans feel they have been harshly treated. For Namibia will have played all their Shield matches at home, Uganda all theirs away. Both teams made easy meat of Bermuda but, while Namibia went down at home to UAE, Uganda got a draw in Abu Dhabi in January, hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

What Ugandan presence there will be in Windhoek remains to be seen. It was certain that hundreds of spectators would have flocked to Lugogo Oval, vuvuzelas at the ready, had the fixture been in Kampala. That fact underlines the Ugandans’ disappointment in a nation where the game is coming up fast and furious, especially among Africans. Even Carroll was impressed by the programme of events set up by the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA).

Meanwhile, national coach Barney Ebrahim caused few surprises with the 14-man squad he picked to take to South Africa for warm-up matches before the big game in Namibia. Captain and vice-captain, Akbar Baig and Davis Arinaitwe, remain at the helm, as they were against UAE in January, and openers Roger Mukasa and Arthur Kyobe stay in place. Thereafter the list is strikingly familiar, although the omission of spinner Raymond Otim, pace bowler Asadu Seiga and batsman Daniel Ruyange will worry a few.

As expected, former exiles Hamza Saleh and Issaneez Emmanuel get into the side based on their league form, while Wanderers duo Deusdedit Muhumuza and Arthur Ziraba survive their blooding in UAE.

Uganda squad: Akbar Baig (capt), Davis Arinaitwe, Issaneez Emmanuel, Arthur Kyobe, Deusdedit Muhumuza, Roger Mukasa, Benjamin Musoke, Frank Nsubuga, Hamza Saleh, Ronald Ssemanda, Lawrence Ssematimba, Dennis Tabby, Charles Waiswa, Arthur Ziraba