Basically, the Ugandan team has performed with admirable consistency for over a decade. However, they have consistently been right on the cusp of getting recognised as serious competitors, but have never quite been able to consolidate and climb the ladder. Being on the fringes makes it difficult for Uganda to really get opportunities. They are always just outside the High Performance Program, or the TAP Program, or any of the other semi-lucrative funding on offer for the top Associates.
However, in 2011, Ugandan cricket grasped onto a much needed opportunity that was offered by their neighbours, Kenya. They contributed two of the six teams to the East African Cup and Premier League. The Nile Knights and Rwenzori Warriors have competed with distinction, and between the two competitions, the Ugandans have two titles (both EAPLs) and three second places. However, two of the best Ugandan cricketers are to be found in Candada, as both Kenneth Kamyuka and Henry Osinde moved to the land of snow and Eskimos (not a lazy stereotype at all...) to make better lives for themselves.
The Ugandan team stand proud and united.
Uganda's top-order is blessed with a pair of excellent stroke-makers in Arthur Kyobe and Roger Mukasa. Mukasa in particular knows how to make big scores, and has both a first-class and List A century to his name. Lawrence Sematimba is also called upon quite often to bolster the run tally, but his strength lies more in red ball cricket as far as the bat is concerned. However, the one batsman who could come in down the order with explosive power was Kenneth Kamyuka, a devilishly talented all-rounder who once belted a century from number ten, and despite still being in his prime, he has not made himself available for his country for many years.
Without Kamyuka, that lower order looks very fragile. While there are many batsmen capable of posting 20s and 30s down the order, there is nobody who is really capable of resurrecting their team after a collapse. Despite the strength at the very top of the Ugandan order, they are a side who can be bowled out very cheaply if a few wickets were to fall. This may be due in no small part to the onus being placed on Twenty20 cricket by the ICC, a format where 20s and 30s are exactly what are called for from the lower order. Of course, if sixteen teams were welcomed into the World Cup rather than just ten, then the Ugandans would have a very different goal as they develop their cricket.
Roger Mukasa can do everything. He can play big innings at the top of the order, or his preferred number three, he can keep wicket equally as well as the very tidy Lawrence Sematimba, and he can deliver wicket-taking medium pacers like a Ugandan Ravi Bopara. When Kenneth Kamyuka walked out on the side, Mukasa had to try to fill that gap as the go-to player. He has done so well, but there has still been a noticeable slip in results for the African side with a 14th place finish in the 2012 World Twenty20 Qualifier.
The Ugandan domestic scene has an excellent pyramid structure that will help to ready the next generation of international cricketers. There is an eight-team national league, the best players from which will be selected for one of the two East Africa franchises, the best players from which can move up to the full Ugandan team. Facilities are quaint and rustic but well maintained, of a standard that allows ICC events to be hosted in Uganda with relative ease, and despite limited economic resources, the Ugandan Cricket Association work hard to reach young players and introduce them to cricket.
Ugandan cricket is held back by the same issues that affect many lower associates: lack of funding, lack of opportunities, and lack of facilities. There is a growing number of cricket grounds in Uganda, but few of them play on turf wickets, something which we in Full Member countries tend to take for granted. As for funding, the UCA has recently been handed a healthy cheque to help them prepare for the World Cup Qualifier. However, a limited World Cup takes away all of the opportunities that were promised by the World Cricket League, and when the future points towards Twenty20, that is where the Ugandans will have to build towards.
So, all-in-all, I'm impressed by what Uganda are able to achieve with very limited resources, but I think it will be pretty difficult for them to improve past being a Division Two fringe side. Next week, I will look at the new home of cricket, the UAE. Until then, goodbye.