The recently concluded ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament was supposed to be Ugandan cricket’s coming-out party. The tournament, played across cricket ovals in Lugogo, Kyambogo and Entebbe, never spluttered into life for the hosts.
Drunk with fear and dismay, they collapsed in a frightened heap, doing more than just pose an existential threat to their division three status in associate cricket.
Cricket Cranes skipper, Davis Karashani’s warning hours before the start of the tourna-ment that the visiting teams were “not here to see mountain gorillas” ended up providing nothing more than a cathartic kind of horror.
Just in case you missed it, the promotion to division two that fans were forecasting with a worrying authoritarian bent as if it were a birthright was missed by a country mile.
The pure hell of Cricket Cranes’ situation was provided by a sensational relegation to division four on the back of a loss at the hands of USA.
There is no doubt as to associ-ate cricket’s power to surprise, but the 13-run loss against USA was one of those severe jolts no-one sees coming. The closer Uganda got to the impenetrable heart of the mystery during what should have been a routine run chase, the more ominous — certainly daunting — the, wait for it, 146 target became.
A day after Uganda’s relegation to division four was confirmed, this newspaper asked a simple yet vexing question on its back page: Where do Cricket Cranes go from here?
This column can’t claim to have a definitive answer. Cynics would say the straight answer to the question is that Cricket Cranes are going to division four. The players may choose to wear an impassive mask, but the fact is that they are going to rub shoulders with the Bermudas and Denmarks of this world.
Opinion may divide as to whether sweeping changes are necessary. If you asked your columnist, he would mouth a resounding yes. There’s no better time for Ugandan cricket to blood young talent. Dropping to division four has offered the game a chance to unclog a pipeline and widen its player base in the process.
Age grade cricket needs a new lease of life. This column is all for biting the bullet and promoting a lion’s share of under-19 players to the senior national team.
Since nature abhors a vacuum, Ugandan cricket officials will collectively work to fill the void created by the departure of the likes of Zephaniah Katungi, David Wabwire and Kenneth Waiswa, to mention but three. In so doing, the metaphorical pipeline will be unclogged.
The primal role that experience plays in sport will surely dictate that a few current Crick-et Cranes be spared the guillotine. Unstinting support, though, should be offered to young blood as it is the future.
Ugandan cricket should not give in to its deepest fears this time round. We should not feed darkly on fear of the unknown. The past and pre-sent can play second-fiddle to the future in this rebuilding endeavour.
Youngster Cheptegei keen to put dark past behind him
Everything seemed to go swimmingly for Joshua Cheptegei on a searingly hot Sunday afternoon at Kololo Independence Grounds back in March. Well into the business end of the senior men’s race at the World Cross Country Championships, the distance runner appeared to be on course for a medal — gold at best and silver at worst. Then he ill advisedly went for the jugular only to end up in crumbling ruins.
Despite Cheptegei’s valiant effort (he persisted and limped past the finish line) helping Uganda win a team bronze, he became the butt of jokes even amongst his countrymen many of whom caricatured him on social networks.
This column was quick to offer en-couragement to the hapless distance runner in the aftermath of his stunning meltdown. In lauding his mental fortitude, this column also backed Cheptegei to dig himself out of the rut.
It might have been pulsingly odd and strikingly original when Cheptegei did what he did at the leafy Kololo course in March. He came in for a drubbing that we all know turned him into a laughing stock. Front-running, though, is the centrepiece of his style. It’s not necessarily the holy grail of distance running.
Dubious front-running strategy
Certainly not the way he approached the business end of the race in Kololo.
Even in his favourite 5000m race, front-running tactics are believed to perpetually stop him from turning the afterburners on at the homestretch.
The tactics also encapsulate the sensation of the 20-year-old’s running. It was as such unsurprising to see him adopt an aggressive strategy when the pacesetter dropped off during the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene last weekend.
A couple of months in international athletics is a sporting eternity. For Cheptegei, coming up against a rich field that included Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor — who beat him to gold in Kololo — must have made the gloomy history inevitably hangs heavy even more.
The young Ugandan, however, distinguished himself in finishing fourth in the race won by Mo Farah.
The race was seen as a dress rehearsal for the World Championships that take place in London in nine weeks’ time.
Cheptegei showed in Eugene (incidentally where he became a junior world champion in 2014) that he will be Uganda’s safest bet for a medal come August.
The appetite for success appears insatiable as does the desire to right the Kololo wrong.
What we now know
We know that three has pretty much been the number in the Fufa Women Elite League these past few days.
We know that this is principally because of the teams that will contest today’s final at Phillip Omondi Stadium in Lugogo.
We now know that it is a classic case of third time lucky for UCU Lady Cardinals.
The Mukono-based outfit will take part in today’s final having fallen by the wayside on two previous occasions.
They have Moreen Kinavudoli’s goals — 15 of them — to thank for breaking the duck.
We also know that Kawempe Muslims will be gunning for their third title today.
They will start as favourites thanks in small part to their talismanic player Hasifah Nassuna (pic below).
The reigning Fufa female player of the year has turned in yet another blinder this season, scoring a hugely impressive 26 league goals.