Ivan Thawithemwira: It will take radical measures, broken relationships to clean Cricket in Uganda

Roger Mukusa, Brian Masaba and Arnold Otwani react after missed opportunity

As you know by now, the Uganda Cricket team underwent such a hiding in Oman that it inspires instant migraines.

As I wrote this, Cricket Cranes were firmly occupying the 5th position! Relegation fodder!

A cricket team, especially a national team, is a source of pride and identity for a particular country. Simply put, they are ambassadors.

That needs no explanation, but in this case I feel the need to make such a reminder. A National team is not just any team, it is NATIONAL property and so, it should be treated as such. If we keep handling affairs as we are, it will equate to Treason!

The Oman debacle is a forgettable one, yet it holds the key to our resurrection if closely dissected. I think we have done the wrong things over and over expecting different results, a case Albert Einstein rightly describes as madness!

We need to diagnose the disease, the results in Oman are only symptoms. The disease is what we need to deal with in order to find the appropriate cure. And am afraid the disease is self inflicted for the most part.

What we witnessed in Oman is a direct result of poor policies, nepotism, arrogance and selfish interests from the responsible parties. If we had qualified to Division 2, it would have been a case of man bites dog.

Here, therefore, is my diagnosis on this matter and I will try to prescribe some treatments.

Martin Suji. This gentleman took Uganda to Division 2 and he was fired. We have not recovered since! Steve Tikolo took us to Division 4 – a proper insult to our cricket heritage and credentials – we renewed his contract.

My recommendation; First, swallow our pride and bring Suji back and give him the due respect.

Secondly, select the right team. There are players on that team that don’t command a starting position in their clubs but they are tasked with representing a Nation. That is ridiculous, if you ask me! That means our league results are not the basis of team selection. We might as well close up the league and let whoever the coach likes play for the country. In a recent game I was involved in – Strikers vs. Aziz Damani – some National team players were left out of Aziz’s starting XI! The ones that started, other than the bowlers, were batting as low as 7 and beyond. The one that played a major role is a reserve on the National team, which tells me either of two things is true; Aziz Damani team selection panel, (which consists, I would assume, of the Captain and the coach, who turns out to be the National team coach too), is biased or the players simply aren’t good enough. I will leave that for debate.

If you ask for my opinion, Frank Akankwasa and Rogers Olipa should have been in Oman since they command a starting place in a newly promoted side from our local Division 2 and have condemned some of the National team players to the bench. And I won’t say a thing about Zephaniah Katungi and Perry Wazombe who were causing national team players severe headache and concerns that morning.

Reward good performances in the league! Kyobe was dropped because “he talks too much” yet he had solved many of our opening batsman problems. He had one bad tournament and all of a sudden “he talks too much”. He could argue that you’re all “quite”! We have a boy who easily is the fastest bowler in Africa outside South Africa, but he can’t get picked because “he’s still young” and yet he’s mopping up batting lineups in the league. Meanwhile Rabada Kagiso and Joseph Alzarri, both 21 and David’s age mates have already played tests!

Thirdly, “Bacuba”! In all Uganda’s success stories in cricket, there were no “bacuba”. The only good ones were Philimon Mpho (he had character and fight and runs), and Riazat Sha. (And it won’t be easy to find these very often). From Junior Kwebiiha, Kenneth Kamyuka and Benjamin Musoke down to Ronald Ssemanda are all home grown and indigenous. We have always found ways to hustle and survive with our own. Wherever the idea of “bacuba” came from is a mystery but one that has had adverse effects than remedial. It has put dark and horrifying blindfolds on our eyes and inspired laziness knowing someone else will do our job. And am afraid, this debilitating virus has seeped right into our schools; Mwiri and Jinjja SS are now using “bacuba”. Mwiri of all schools? This is an institution that once had such surplus resources that they produced 2 teams for cricket week and to see them “shopping” from Kololo SS is such an embarrassment! What we have now is Mukono Parents and St. John’s even threatening the hierarchy of schools cricket, yet if you randomly asked a student in one of those schools what cricket is, they’ll think you’re speaking Greek. Solution…? Get rid of “bacuba”! Most of them are happy to report on Facebook how they just walked into a National side. We have never lacked talent in this country. Never! We can easily go to Division 4 without “bacuba”, we didn’t need them to get us there. Stop finding “instant” solutions to “lasting” problems. Work on “foundations” and build systems that will generate players. Find a player retention system that will keep your best players around. Don’t cry about lack of money, it has become an archaic song irritating to the cochleae. Find means!

Felix Musana runs an academy in Soroti out of his own pocket and he’s just a regular employee. How about a National board? Open your arms to Development schemes. Help Musana and Nyakasura. Instead of charging them league participation fees and asking them to write long irrelevant application letters, give them an easy way into cricket. Consider how much it costs them to bring teams from Soroti and Fort Portal every weekend before you ask them for participation fees. They are doing what you should have been doing in the first place. They have shown initiative in developing cricket and you’re charging them for it, while they’re incurring costs? I would be embarrassed if I were in your position.

Nyakasura alone has produced two cricket teams in the league. That means on an average Saturday, there’s at least 22 players from one school that have been handed to UCA on a silver plate without their effort, from whom they can pick for future and even immediate engagements.

What happened to Kasasa? Have you kept an eye on Ntare, Kibuli and Kira College, Butiki? There’s not one cricket playing school in Gulu? Let alone the northern region? How about Kasese that has kept winning the mini cricket tournaments for years? Can’t there be a league team by now from that area that you would happily fund for the league?

Invest in your players and treat them well. We are the only people that want to milk a cow without feeding it. Take them to academies, dress them well. Get rid of these New South Wales kit for National team use, it’s not befitting a National Team. That kit should go to your development programs, not the National team.

Some national team players don’t have basic equipment like gloves or bat, let alone kit-bags. The team that went to Canada in 2001 were all kitted up with Slazenger kits, and that was before we were getting any significant funding. I wonder why it is now very hard! They are now reduced to used bats from the “container”. On the occasion they buy new ones, they are of the lowest grade not even good enough for schools cricket.

There were even exchange programs with South Africa. Kamyuka, Franco Nsubuga and Lawrence Ssematimba, and Kyobe too went to SA clubs. Before that, Richard Okia, and further back Guy Kimbowa. Find out what it would have taken Kwebiiha, Kamyuka, Ruyange, Ssemanda, Osinde to stay around and try to meet it! The more well-fed the cow is, the bigger it gets and the more milk you get. Simple logic!

Develop and implement sustainable systems with targets and progress landmarks. Have a 20 year plan, 10 year, 5 year and 2 and 1 year plans. Plans that you can refer to. What made Ireland and Afghanistan, 2 teams that we beat, attain Test status while we are heading the opposite direction? They made deliberate progress plans and maps. Ireland sent players into the English County circuit, Afghanistan had theirs in Pakistan! USA recently had theirs in West Indies! Spare resources for facilities. Don’t buy a swamp! Buy real land you can build a cricket ground on. (And by the way, watch out for Rwanda! They invested in a ground, good systems and even greater partnerships. Sam Billings, Michael Vaughn, Brian Lara, and Herschelle Gibbs, not bad company to have! One bright morning when we wake up, they’ll have leap-frogged Uganda and we shall be the ones begging for friendlies).

Develop departments, positions, coaches etc., and deploy them. Let people be accountable. Clean our house, we are hurting. Stop treating our National symbol with such disdain; it’s not a personal club! It wears Black, Yellow and Red, with a Crane on its crest!

This is going to take some radical measures and people to implement. Friends will be lost, relations broken and hearts broken, but it must be done for the good of this country.

Australia is going through a similar phase. England did so not so long ago after their disappointing World Cup campaign. Who are we not to?

I might lose a few friends too after this and might be the least popular, but am not too afraid. I’ve never been the most popular anyway, because I’ve ever been dropped from a team when we were only 11.

I know many people will get offended by this, please understand I don’t mean anything personal. It’s just the desire to see our National team do well that’s driving me. If we look objectively, there might be some useful insights.

Don’t ban me from the league, please!

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