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It is absolutely critical that we pick up where we left off – Uganda’s Brian Masaba

Isaac Lockett speaks to Ugandan captain Brian Masaba about the recently concluded Uganda Elite League and Ugandan men's team returning to action.

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The Uganda Elite League recently concluded with the Aziz Damani Scorpions winning the inaugural edition of the competition. Emerging Cricket recently had the opportunity to speak to Ugandan international and captain of the Scorpions Brian Masaba about what the tournament was like from a player’s perspective but also what the restarting of cricket means as a whole. 

Arnold Otwani captain of the Royal Varsani Bucks (Left) Umpire Eric Wandera (Middle) and Brian Masaba (Right) prior to an Elite League match (Photo: Uganda Cricket Association)

The restart

When talking about cricket making its return in Uganda, Masaba provided an insight into what it was like as an athlete within the country. The Uganda men’s captain reflected that it has ‘been a tough eight months not being able to pick up a bat. The uncertainty surrounding the whole Covid situation made it extremely difficult for sportspeople to stay motivated and fit’.

This lack of motivation seems to have been reversed with cricket restarting in the country with the players being ‘extremely glad just to be out on the field playing cricket again … We hope this is the first step on the road to normalcy’. 

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Prior to the sport’s eight-month suspension due to the effects of the ongoing global pandemic, cricket in Uganda was developing momentum. The men’s team currently sit 31st in the T20I world rankings while the women’s team sits in 18th position and both teams were seeing ever-improving performances. The Ugandan men’s team also have the recommencement of the 2019–21 ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League to look forward too once postponed events are rescheduled.

When Masaba was speaking about the importance of regenerating the momentum the sport had prior to the enforced break, the national team captain passionately stated that ‘it is absolutely critical that we pick up where we left off’. Masaba continued to state that ‘It is going to be very important to get the minds switched on quickly, so as to get back into the right rhythm before the WCL and T20 qualifiers come around’. 

Reflections on the Elite League

Masaba stated that ‘The Elite League is something we’ve (the players) been pushing for quite a while now’. The league provides the Ugandan players ‘an opportunity to play competitive cricket at a level we don’t quite get from club cricket and other domestic engagements. It was amazing to take part and win the first of it’s kind on Ugandan soil’ according to Masaba. During the tournament, the Ugandan captain skippered the Scorpions side to victory; as it was a new tournament with newly established teams Masaba was tasked with creating a bond between the players and setting the teams ethos. 

Brian Masaba in action during the Uganda Elite League (Photo: Uganda Cricket Association)

Masaba presented that ‘understandably, it was a slow start, with guys finding their feet after the long layoff, but (performances) picked up towards the backend. When looking back on the overall standard of the tournament, Masaba felt as if ‘the bowlers of the various teams really put in good shifts and while the batting lagged a bit, but we are hoping with more game time, that will pick up as well’. 

There were a number of players who impressed Masaba over the course of the tournament including player of the tournament Wasim Butt. Masaba ‘was glad to see guys like Wasim Butt, Ivan Thawithemwira, Simon Ssesazi and Derrick Bakunzi put their names in the hat (for national selection) with some good batting displays. Gerald Mubiru and Siraje Nsubuga impressed with the bowl. Hopefully, we’ll see more of them on the international stage at some point’.

There were a number of players who impressed Masaba over the course of the tournament including player of the tournament Wasim Butt. Masaba ‘was glad to see guys like Wasim Butt, Ivan Thawithemwira, Simon Ssesazi and Derrick Bakunzi put their names in the hat (for national selection) with some good batting displays. Gerald Mubiru and Siraje Nsubuga impressed with the bowl. Hopefully, we’ll see more of them on the international stage at some point’.

When talking about the benefits of the tournament, Masaba understood a variety of benefits including the benefit of ‘more game time for everybody, definitely more competitive than what we usually get, plus it’s a great platform for guys looking to get a shot at the national team’. When speaking about his desires for the future of the tournament, Masaba stated that ‘Hopefully, we can grow the tournament to involve more players from East Africa and beyond in the near future’.

With a number of exciting talents across West Africa developing, the addition of players from a variety of countries would certainly make for an exciting spectacle and would certainly aid the Ugandan Elite League to become a centrepiece of West Africa’s cricketing calendar.

The restarting of international action 

The Ugandan men’s team are set to resume action in December during a tournament in Qatar which will see the team take on the hosts with potential series participants also being Malaysia and Nepal. Prior to the start of the tournament, the Uganda Cricket Association have announced a training squad of 21 and presents the coaches with an opportunity to assess the plays both before the tournament and a busy fixture schedule during 2021. The initial phases of the preparation will be overseen by interim coach Davis Turinawe and Assistant Coach Jackson Ogwang prior to the arrival of the new head coach Lawrence Mahatlane. 

The Cricket Cranes, Ugandan men’s team are set to resume action in December during a tournament in Qatar where they are slated to take on Malaysia, Nepal and hosts Qatar (the other touring sides’ boards have not yet confirmed). Prior to the start of the tournament, the Uganda Cricket Association have announced a training squad of 21 and presents the coaches with an opportunity to assess the plays both before the tournament and a busy fixture schedule during 2021. The initial phases of the preparation will be overseen by interim coach Davis Turinawe and Assistant Coach Jackson Ogwang prior to the arrival of the new head coach Lawrence Mahatlane. 

Uganda celebrate a wicket during WCL3 in 2018

When talking about the national training squad, Masaba said that he was ‘Definitely excited to see guys like Siraje Nsubuga, Wabwire and Saud Islam get their shot and I am looking forward to seeing how they go about it’. Finally, Masaba was grateful for the opportunity which presented itself and concluded the interview by explaining ‘At this point, any cricket we get to play is a huge bonus, so very excited for the tournament and against quality sides’. 

Training squad announced by the Uganda Cricket Association: Arnold Otwani, Saud Islam, Ronak Patel, Dinesh Nakrani, Roger Mukasa, Riazat Ali Shah, Frank Nsubuga, Brian Masaba, Frank Akankwasa, Kenneth Waiswa, Fred Achelam, Deusdedit Muhumuza, Richard Agamire, Henry Ssenyondo, Zephania Arinaitwe, David Wabwire, Simon Ssesazi, Siraje Nsubuga, Steven Wabwose, Shahzad Ukani Kamal, Trevor Bukenya

Selection dilemma for Mahatlane

Following Emerging Cricket’s interview with Masaba, The Monitor has reported that three Ugandan internationals will be unavailable for the trip to Qatar. It was reported that Roger Mukasa, Deusdedit Muhumuza and Charles Waiswa will not be available for the series.

The three players will leave roles up for grabs in the starting XI and could present the opportunity for a player to burst on the scene and make a name for themselves.

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Isaac Lockett
Isaac Lockett
Isaac has an undergraduate degree in sports psychology with a passion for the development of cricket into a completely global sport. He is furthering his academic study through the completion of a Masters degree in Sports Business Management and Policy which aims to further understand sporting globalisation.

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