KAMPALA- Team Uganda definitely checked out of camp at Hotel Africana with heads low on Wednesday morning after suffering shock relegation at the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division Three tournament.
The hosts failed to utilise home advantage, finishing with a 2-3 record in the six-team round-robin format that saw Uganda relegated to ICC WCL Division Four for the first time in history.
Batting ineptitude punctuated by poor shot selection, fear-to-fail attitude, debatable team selection as well as choices after winning the pre-match toss, dropped catches and missed stumpings describe Uganda’s fate in a nutshell.
Perhaps, that reality is even yet to event sink in for the Cricket Cranes, their coach Steve Tikolo, Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) and the entire fraternity.
Already, many have used social media platforms WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to express their disappointment with a hatful demanding for Kenyan tactician Tikolo’s head and that the team is given a facelift. From trending at the top, the hashtag #ICCWCL3UG has faded really fast.
Did playing from home affect the team with inevitable pressure built on a great stone of expectation?
“There is no way playing on grounds we are used to would have been a problem,” disappointed skipper Davis Karashani said after the 13-run loss to USA in Entebbe on Monday which sent Uganda down to the dogs.
In Sunday Monitor dated May 21; this paper reported that home advantage would only count 20 percent for Uganda as only one host in five episodes - Hong Kong in 2011 - had won the ICC WCL Division Three at their own backyard.
Well, Uganda failed to finish in the top two places which were taken up by eventual finalists Oman and Canada.
The latter are tutored by Henry Osinde, a Ugandan-born who schooled at Busoga College Mwiri and played for Uganda before switching to Canada and donning jersey No.17 at the 2006 and 2011 ICC Cricket World Cups.
Osinde believes Uganda contributed to its own downfall. “It was a tricky tournament,” the 38-year-old said. “Lose two games and you are under pressure to lose the next one,”
“Uganda have themselves to blame. They prepared wickets that take turn and in my opinion the indigenous Ugandan players are not good at playing it. Pace is their thing,” Osinde explained.
Dail Monitor understands that UCA Chief Curator Naseer Ahmed asked the team what type of wickets they wanted for the tournament and they opted for the spin-taking ones. So did the Cricket Cranes dig their own grave?
“Look at the guys who performed best. The stats show that only the players of Asian origin in the Ugandan side performed with the bat. These guys grew up playing on them and were ever going to be overwhelmed. If you prepare such a track for an Asian-filled Oman side when they are going to play Uganda, who do you think will benefit most?” queried Osinde.
The two-time World Cup star’s statement holds much water as tournament winners Oman have their side littered with classy Indian and Pakistani-bred players, who are natural masters at playing spin.
Also, Canada’s Rizwan Cheema, who was voted Player of Series with 181 runs in five innings and six wickets, building off an opening 44-ball 91 against Uganda, is Pakistani-born.
Uganda’s best batsman Mohammed Irfan Afridi is of Pakistan descent and finished with 172 runs from five innings. Much of that is attributed to the match winning unbeaten century of 108 off 71 balls he made in the four-wicket victory over Malaysia at Lugogo on May 27.
Afridi was followed by another Pakistani-born Kamal Ukani Shahzad with 128 runs while Roger Mukasa had six runs less. Further, 21 of 26 players who scored more than 100 runs at the week-long tourney are of Asian descent.
And with the ball, seamers were outclassed by spinners. Little wonder, Irfan, Frank Nsubuga, Henry Ssenyondo, Karashani and Mukasa shared 32 wickets from 176 overs.
“We have probably the best bowling attack in ICC Associate cricket,” Karashani reasoned after the tournament. Well, correct and true!
But connecting the dots, this states how much the ploy to bank on spin back fired the day Karashani opted to bat first, as the Uganda set a paltry 144 on a tough Kyambogo wicket before losing to Oman by six wickets on Day Three.
Actually, neither of the seamers Jonathan Ssebanja, Deus Muhumuza, assistant captain Brian Masaba and Charles Waiswa played more than three matches notwithstanding the latter’s finger injury against Oman. This quartet picked a miserable four wickets from a combined 36.5 overs.
Change of tradition
In previous times where Uganda has hosted ICC events, they’ve made the top coveted spots while playing on seamer-friendly wickets in Lugogo, Kyambogo and Entebbe.
Evidence? Medium-pacer Muhumuza was tournament’s best bowler with 18 wickets in nine matches as Uganda won the ICC Africa Twenty20 six years ago. Masaba, then a graduate from the U-19s, took 12 wickets.
Left-hand opener Arthur Kyobe has been off-colour, taking much of the stick after aggregating just 37 runs in four innings - eighth from bottom of the batting charts - with a best score of 20 off 36 against Singapore.
To underline the spin factor, wicket-keeper Naeem Bardai who also has Asian links, nearly beat Kyobe’s total tally when he top-scored with 32 runs off 56 deliveries in the only match he played against USA in Entebbe.
But in 2011 here, Kyobe was tournament’s fifth best with 203 runs from nine innings and during the 2013 Africa T20s here still, he piled 223 runs from eight innings.
Did the gods desert the Cricket Cranes? Was it a case of poor tactics? Were our players overwhelmed by the occasion? And if it wasn’t stage fright, did pressure from the fans contribute to the team’s no-show? Indeed, too many questions, very few answers!
2017 ICC WCL DIVISION THREE
UGANDA’S COLLATED RESULTS
Canada 234/8 Uganda 168/10
(Canada won by 66 runs)
Uganda 217/9 Singapore 151/10
(Uganda won by 66 runs)
Uganda 144/10 Oman 145/4
(Oman won by 6 wickets)
Malaysia 189/10 Uganda 193/6
(Uganda won by 4 wickets)
USA 145/10 Uganda 132/10
(USA won by 13 runs)
UGANDA - BEST BATSMEN
Mohammed Irfan: 172 runs in 5 innings
Kamal Shahzad: 128 runs in 5 innings
Roger Mukasa: 122 runs in 5 innings
Arnold Otwani: 79 runs in 5 innings
Hamu Kayondo: 66 runs in 5 innings
Deus Muhumuza: 55 runs in 2 innings
Davis Karashani: 45 runs in 5 innings
Arthur Kyobe: 37 runs in 4 innings
Naeem Bardai: 32 runs in 1 innings
9 wkts for 171 runs (42 overs)
8 wkts for 179 runs (46 overs)
6 wkts for 161 runs (45 overs)
5 wkts for 113 runs (31 overs)
4 wkts for 48 runs (12 overs)
2 wkts for 66 runs (13 overs)
1 wkt for 23 runs (10 overs)
1 wkt for 53 runs (11.5 overs)
0 wkt for 25 runs (2 overs)
BEST BATTING FIGURES PER MATCH
USA: Naeem Bardai (32 off 56)
Malayisa: Mohammed Irfan (108* off 71)
Oman: Roger Mukasa (57 off 68)
Singapore: Arnold Otwani (47 off 46)
Canada: Mohammed Irfan (31 off 23)
TOTAL SIXES: 19 (14 from Irfan)
TOTAL FOURS: 54
MAIDENS: 31 (12 by Nsubuga, 9 by Ssenyondo & 5 by Irfan)