By Charles Mutebi
UGANDAN cricket enjoyed a mixed year in 2010. Off the pitch, there was significant progress, particularly in the establishment of administrative structures that will improve the running of the game.
On it, there was significant disappointment, with the senior and Under 19 menâ€™s teams as well the womenâ€™s side coming short in key international engagements. But more on the failures later: first, a deeper look at the accomplishments.
The Elective Assembly
February saw the annual elective assembly being held. But this yearâ€™s was quite the meeting. UCA assemblies have never been short on drama but this yearâ€™s produced enough to inspire a Hollywood hit.
The sight of armed policemen rushing in to keep a gathering of gentleman from exploding will long live in memory.
Fortunately, the assembly went ahead without any casualties and the serious business of choosing between incumbent UCA chairman Kato Sebbaale and colleague turned vocal critic Enoch Barumba took place, with the former comfortably winning another term in office.
Sebbaaleâ€™s return ensured a smooth continuation of the strategic five-year plan to transform Ugandan cricket. The assembly ratified the new constitution and suggested it go into effect as soon as possible.
Lijalingi appointed CEO
Consequently, Justin Lijalingi was immediately appointed the maiden CEO of the UCA, a key statute in the constitution and demanded by world cricket governing body, the ICC. Lijalilngiâ€™s appointment was a step forward, in principle if nothing else. It marked the end of volunteerism in the UCA, something that was always an excuse for sloppy service. Mercifully, Lijalingi came in with the right profile to oversee the initial phases of professionalizing Uganda cricket during his four-year term.
Ten months forward, the signs are very encouraging. UCAâ€™s media relations have drastically improved and schools cricket has made noteworthy progress, with tournaments from primary to tertiary level taking place.
Failure on the field
Grassroots cricket has to be prioritised if Uganda is going to make the next leap on the field. As this year showed, our national teams still have a lot of work to do. The menâ€™s senior team went from favourites for the ICC Intercontinental Shield to third-place finishers.
After defeating Bermuda and drawing with the UAE in its first two Shield matches, Uganda connived to lose by 10 wickets against Namibia. That meant Uganda finished third and consequently, will not participate in next yearâ€™s expanded Intercontinental Cup which will welcome the top two from the Shield.
Like their seniors, the U-19 menâ€™s team floundered in the pre-World Cup qualifier held in Namibia. Uganda entered the event as favourites, only to finish fourth and fall out of the running.
The women didnâ€™t fair much better, with the senior team falling short in this monthâ€™s World Cup qualifiers, finishing one place outside qualification. These international events showed that while Uganda is not far behind, it not there yet. Conrad Shukri had better take note. The new national team coach was appointed in October with hopes he can take Uganda further than predecessor Ebrahim Mohammed. Shukri has immediately gone on to lay down the marker, saying every player will have to earn his place in the team anew.
However, Shukri might have a tough time fighting the temptation to call up the entire Premier squad. Premier, already boasting 10 players in and around the national setup, swept everything on menâ€™s top-flight calendar. Premier won five trophies out five, fulfilling their seasonâ€™s target and raising serious concerns about the quality of the opposition. The UCA says it is planning measures that will guard against Premier-style dominance in the future.
Meanwhile, ACC won the womenâ€™s league even as their brother side finished bottom of the menâ€™s first division. Multiple national menâ€™s champions, ACC but could find themselves relegated to the second division next season, depending on the outcome of UCAâ€™s planned league shake-up. Either way ACC are in uncharted territory.