By Charles Mutebi
THE kind of questions most Ugandans will be asking in the wake of the national team’s performance at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand is not hard to imagine.
Are we that bad? Are the players trying hard enough? Is cricket our game anyway? The answer is yes, yes and yes.
For a country that started playing international cricket a decade before gaining independence, it is pointless to ask if cricket is a Ugandan sport.
As for the question of whether our players wear the national cap with pride, let’s just say the team in New Zealand were so eager to do well, many players saw the tournament as the defining moment of their careers.
The problem for them is the answer to the first of the three above questions.
Yes, our players are no longer good enough to compete with teams at the top end of associate cricket.
Put differently, while Davis Karashani and his men wanted to succeed so badly, they were in fact too bad to do it.
“I note with concern the poor performance of our team,” conceded Richard Mwami, former national captain and current chairman of local cricket body UCA.
“But the reality is our players are not exposed enough to compete at the high stage.”
At the Qualifier, Uganda lost heavily to the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Canada, only putting up something resembling a fight against Kenya but still losing by 47 runs while chasing 253.
Defeat to Canada saw Uganda lose its ICC High Performance Programme (HPP) fund worth at least $360,000 (shs890m).
When Uganda qualified for the 2009-10 ICC Intercontinental Shield, it was at the same level with Namibia and UAE, who finished first and second respectively in that tournament.
Now, the UAE lead the Super Six standings in New Zealand and are on course to qualify for their first World Cup. Namibia are bottom of the Super Six standings but they still have
Therefore, by the time Sunday’s 59-run loss condemned Uganda to ICC World Cricket League Division 3 relegation, it was painfully obvious that Johan Rudolph’s team were out of their depth down under.
In a weird sense, when Uganda’s fate was complete, there was some relief it was all over. No fan wants to see his/her team suffer constant embarrassment, to walk into matches with defeat virtually a foregone conclusion.
Only one Ugandan batsman in New Zealand reached three digits — Abraham Mutyagaba with 114 runs — and that was after five innings.
Five players scored more than Mutyagaba’s total in just one match while six overs from five matches at an economy of 4.80, was Uganda’s best bowler. Again, simply not good enough. Others managed a century.
Mutyagaba’s 61 against Kenya was the only half-century by a Ugandan player at the tournament.
Charles Waiswa, with 7/149 in 31 overs from five matches at an economy of 4.80, was Uganda’s best bowler. Again, simply not good enough.
How has Uganda fallen so far behind?
A major explanation for that is the difference in resources and exposure between Uganda and their associate rivals like the UAE. The gulf state, already inundated with financial resources, is now the home of the Pakistan Cricket team.
Not only does the UAE benefit from constantly brushing shoulders with the likes of Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan, they have naturalised talented Pakistanis to play for them.
Khurram Khan, who is UAE’s top scorer in New Zealand with a tournament-best 413 runs, was born in Punjab, Pakistan.
A similar pattern is repeated among virtually all other associate countries. Namibia, for instance, play in South Africa’s elite leagues while PNG are being turned into Australia’s young cricket sibling.
PNG’s Terrent Owen Jones played 34 tests for England.
This is the reality of the cricket terrain Uganda are trying to conquer. For now, even survival is out of reach.