Features FeaturesRSS FeedFeeds

'Cricket is the difference between being a good citizen and a thug'

Kenneth Kamyuka came to cricket so he could eat well, but stayed on for the game, and ended up moving to another continent for it

Firdose Moonda

September 20, 2013

Comments: 4 | Text size: A | A

Kenneth Kamyuka leads Uganda's celebrations, Argentina v Uganda, World Cricket League Division 3, Buenos Aires, January 31, 2009
Kennth Kamyuka in Ugandan colours © ICC/CricketEurope
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Kenneth Kamyuka
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier
Teams: Canada | Uganda

Shane Warne turned to cricket after being cut from a second-string Aussie Rules team. Dale Steyn took up the sport when he realised a career as a skateboarder would not work out in South Africa. And Kumar Sangakkara chose batting over the baseline when a teacher advised his mother that it would serve him better than his tennis. But Kenneth Kamyuka played cricket to eat.

"I was a good soccer player but the soccer team didn't go out to play matches as much as the cricket team. The cricketers went out every weekend and they would get fed there," Kamyuka said. "I didn't have lots of pocket money, so I gave up soccer for cricket. For me, it wasn't about cricket as much as it was going to get a good meal."

The century-old Busoga College Mwiri, where Kamyuka was educated, is one of Uganda's most prestigious schools. Overlooking Lake Victoria, it was previously patronised only by the sons of kings and chiefs but has since started offering all Ugandans the chance to benefit from its magnificent facilities. It's difficult to imagine the food would be bad in such a school, but boarding school dinners have a reputation for being bland, and Kamyuka obviously preferred what he got while playing cricket. It wasn't long before he began to enjoy the game too.

The school's cricket team was strong and had won nine championships in a row, some of them during Kamyuka's time. He was identified by coach Justin Ligaylingi for higher honours.

Cricket in Uganda is a relatively minor sport with a small community, so a talented player quickly becomes a star. Kamyuka was one such. He recalled a performance at league level that made him stand out. "Against a development team I bowled ten overs, went for 25 runs and picked up all ten wickets myself."

At 19, Kamyuka scored an unbeaten century, from No. 10, against Malaysia in the 2001 ICC Trophy, and was soon hailed as one of the most talented players of his generation.

Eight years later, in the World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Argentina, he picked up four Man-of-the-Match awards from five innings and led the wickets chart with 18 at 6.33.

He turned out for Uganda at the World Cup qualifiers later that year but shortly after that his relationship with the authorities turned sour. Kamyuka was frustrated by the lack of opportunities, especially to play in other countries, and felt cricket was not being properly managed in Uganda. "I used to play overseas through my own arrangement," he said. "I didn't feel the officials had the best interests of the players at heart."

Kamyuka decided to pull the plug on his Uganda career when fell out with the board over daily payments. He called a former schoolmate, Henry Osinde, who had moved to Canada and was now playing for their national side, and told him of his troubles back home. Osinde invited him to visit Canada. Kamyuka did, liked what he saw, and stayed.

But by now 27, Kamyuka had to wait four years to qualify for Canada's national side. He decided to take the chance nevertheless. With Osinde's assistance, he found a club to play for, impressed with his performances, and was selected for the national team as soon as he became available.

He made his debut last month against Netherlands and took a wicket with his first ball. The fixture was washed out but Kamyuka's figures of 4 for 38 from 5.5 overs, although expensive, were enough to prove his ability and desire. "It was just another game for me. I had one game and one chance to prove myself. I love situations like that," Kamyuka said. "I haven't been playing at that level for four years but straight from club level, I picked up a wicket on my first ball." He especially enjoyed his second dismissal - that of Michael Swart. "He hit me for a few runs before that so I had a few words for him after I got him."

Kamyuka also dedicated his performance to the Canada captain Ashish Bagai, who has backed him from the beginning. "He was the reason I'm playing," Kamyuka said. "He pushed for me to play and I told all my friends that if I don't make it I would have let the captain down. He believed in me and supported me no matter what people said, because he had seen me play before."


Kenneth Kamyuka celebrates the dismissal of Daan van Bunge, Canada v Netherlands, ICC World Cricket League Championship,  King City, August 27, 2013
Kamyuka took a wicket off his first ball for Canada © Eddie Norfolk
Enlarge

Bagai too is an immigrant to Canada, as are many of his national team-mates. But Ravin Moorthy, Cricket Canada president, does not look at arrivals like Kamyuka as hindrances to the growth of the local game. "The majority of our players come through our youth systems," Moorthy said. "In the 2011 World Cup, half of our players came out of our development programmes. This is a fact that we are very proud of. We are very fortunate to be able to augment this core talent with players who move to Canada and join our set-up. Even players who do not make it to the national programme help bring up the level of our domestic competition and local leagues, which creates a more robust competition."

Moorthy hopes Kamyuka's success continues, especially with 2015 World Cup qualifiers looming. "It's a big plus to have a player like Kenneth, who we have played against in previous World Cup qualifiers. When we reach the qualifiers, having a player who has experience at this level certainly benefits the team."

But before that the 2014 World Twenty20 qualifiers have to be tackled in November in the UAE. Kamyuka will be an integral part of Canada's squad for the tournament. He believes Canada have a strong chance, more so than Uganda, because of the composition of their squad and their ability to play spin, which may be a factor in the conditions in the UAE.

"We're not too far off, especially in the T20s. Canada has the edge when it comes to experience," Kamyuka said. "Uganda is weak against spin bowling while Canada has slow wickets that make us better equipped for spin."

Even if Canada don't make it through the qualifiers, Kamyuka has pledged to keep playing the game, because it gave him a better life. "I want to keep playing, keep fit and have fun. Cricket is the difference between where I am right now - being a good citizen - and being a thug on the streets. Cricket and I are inseparable."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

RSS Feeds: Firdose Moonda

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by AnyoneButVettel on (September 20, 2013, 15:36 GMT)

@tatactg: "6 to 8 quality teams within next 15 years". Seeing where Bangladesh are nearly 13yrs since their first game and WI still in decline and NZ still being also-rans, I think it's a bit too optimistic. However, it's hope that drives us as a species and I'd be extremely happy if this becomes a reality and cricket can then be on the road to being a global sport. #AnyoneButVettel.

Posted by tatactg on (September 20, 2013, 11:49 GMT)

@anton1234 Native Ugandan's are playing for Uganda from the very start of their cricket - the squad is 100% indigenous always.And as for spreading the game , it would be better to concentrate on nations where the project is half done (leading indigenous associate teams like Afghan,Canada, Kenya,Ireland,PNG,Nepal,Hong Kong,Uganda,Namibia,Malaysia-Singapore.) so that we get 6 to 8 quality teams within next 15 years.

Posted by anton1234 on (September 20, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

I personally think it is pretty much a waste of resources making associate countries playing the long format and even the 50 over game. The only way to spread the game quickly and efficiently is through T20. T20 can catch on much quicker because it is fast paced, hard hitting, whereas, to the uninitiated, the longer form can seem as boring as watching paint try. The T20 over game is much more simple to understand, have a game that lasts under 3 hours, lots of action and you have a an excellent product for people new to the game. And its also a game that will appeal to the natives of a country and not just Indian immigrants. When you spread a game you want to see Native Italians in the Italian team, native Ugandans in the Ugandan team, native Dutch in the Dutch team and so on. You don't want the majority of the team made up of immigrants.

The ICC (AKA BCCI) is completely mismanaging the game.

Posted by   on (September 20, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

Thanks for bringing us this story, Firdose. Many if not most fans of associate cricket will be familiar with Kenneth Kamyuka and his raw ability, to have him back playing international cricket again is fantastic and I wish him well with his new home and team in Canada.

Comments have now been closed for this article

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Firdose MoondaClose

    'The key to Ishant's success will be bowling full'

Ajit Agarkar and Aakash Chopra assess: Ishant Sharma and
Peter Siddle

The best commentator on TV

The Cricket Monthly: Cricket brings the drama through its narrators' tones. Our panelists pick five of their favourites
Download the app: for iPads | for Android tablets

    Love before first sight

My Favourite Cricketer: First-class batsman Yere Goud caught a 13-year-old's attention with his unusual name and news-making runs. By Karthik Krishnaswamy

    Every innings is an act of courage

Simon Barnes: Phillip Hughes' death was desperately unlucky, and it came in the courageous pursuit of sporting excellence

Why cricket needs women's Tests

Raf Nicholson: Apart from the fact that they are exciting, intense encounters, getting rid of them will only spell doom for the format itself

News | Features Last 7 days

Phillip Hughes: Gone too soon

The cricket world reacts to the passing away of Phillip Hughes

Phillip Hughes: Country kid who moved a nation

Likeable, hard-working and skilful, it was a matter of time before Phillip Hughes cemented his spot in the Australian Test team. Then, improbably and inconsolably, his time ran out

Hope for Hughes, feel for Abbott

It is impossible to imagine how Sean Abbott must feel after sending down that bouncer to Phillip Hughes. While the cricket world hopes for Hughes' recovery, it should also ensure Abbott is supported

November games need November prices

An early start to the international season, coupled with costly tickets, have kept the Australian public away from the cricket

#putoutyourbats

People across the world paid tribute to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died on November 27, by putting out their bats

News | Features Last 7 days