Starting Wednesday, 22nd November up until 30th, cricket enthusiasts across the country will have their eyes glued on either their television sets or phones as the Cricket Cranes attempt to create history.
The journey and spadework for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers commenced months ago, but it is now time to validate that groundwork.
The holy grail is a berth in next year’s World Cup in the USA and West Indies. As recently as 2022, the U19 boys team shook hands with the big boys at the World Cup in West Indies. Can the senior team finally realise that dream?
In their opening game, the Cricket Cranes will set the ball rolling against regional rivals Tanzania. It is a clash that habitually sees Uganda sweep the board.
At the East Africa Trophy in Rwanda- the last competition that involved both sides- Uganda won five out of the six meetings against Tanzania.
The Cricket Cranes statistically hold an upper hand, but those victories never come on a silver platter as evidenced in Rwanda where twice Uganda won by only 19 runs, and at the finals of the Africa Cup last year in South Africa where Uganda needed the individual brilliance of Riazat Ali Shah to lift the trophy.
Salim Jumbe, Tanzania’s all-rounder has tagged Uganda one of the ‘best’ sides at the competition, but insists the team that will bring their A game on Wednesday will be the side that takes the day.
“Uganda is one of the best teams in this tournament. We have learnt quite a lot from them,” Jumbe said.
“They have a lot of all-rounders which is good for T20 games, but we believe that the team that will play the best cricket tomorrow will win.”
The absence of opening bowlers Juma Miyaji and Cosmos Kyewuta has cast a shadow of doubt on Uganda’s ability to compete favourably, but going by their recent outings and the form exhibited by some of the players at the just concluded warm up games in Zimbabwe, interim head coach, Jackson Ogwang oozes confidence.
Bilal Hassun, who twice picked up four wickets in Zimbabwe, Robinson Obuya who knocked 91 against Takashinga in the final warm up game, Ronak Patel who anchored his side to a hard fought 2-run win in their opening warm up game, Dinesh Nakrani who had a decent all round play in Zimbabwe and Riazat Ali Sha who joined the team in the final minute seem to have instilled a sense of hope to a section of Ugandan fans.
But whether that form is carried to Namibia remains to be seen.
Given Ogwang’s team face hosts Namibia and Zimbabwe- the top ranked sides in this competition next, Uganda can not afford defeat in this game.
A good start can be a confident booster towards realising the dream as only the top two will qualify for the World Cup. To finish in top two, Uganda needs to win at least five of their six games.