‘We still played as one’ – Janet Mbabazi on the Women’s Elite League in Uganda

Isaac Lockett talks to Ugandan International about the recently concluded Women's Elite League in Uganda and a look into what 2021 may bring.

Kevin Awino, captain of the Challenger Bizzards, and Janet Mbabazi, VC making plans of how to up the run rate during a Women's Elite League match (Photo: Kawawo Sports)

Following the Women’s Elite League in Uganda in the later stages of 2020, Ugandan international Janet Mbabazi, vice-captain of the Challenger Blizzards, spoke to Emerging Cricket.

Mbabazi believes that the Women’s Elite League is a positive development for women’s cricket in Uganda. Talking about impact the league could have, the Ugandan international reflected ‘we have got a lot of young players that do not get the opportunity to be selected for the national team most of the time, so the Elite League should give them the chance to play more competitive games outside the national league’. 

Kevin Awino (L), captain of the Challenger Bizzards, and Janet Mbabazi (R) plot a run rate increase while batting in a Women’s Elite League match (Photo: (Photo: Kawawo Sports/ Bata Images)

Reflecting on her own personal performance in the 2020 edition of the tournament, Mbabazi recalled that she ‘was a bit too rusty’ and ‘wasn’t able to score runs.’ The last game that Mbabazi remembers playing was the Ugandan 6’s Challenge in December 2019. As a result Mbabazi and other players ‘lacked mental fitness.’ For all of these reasons, the Elite League was a welcome development.

Mbabazi says ‘I personally felt like the Elite League gave me a chance to identify my weak and strong points. The team was amazing! Despite losing three games in a row, we still played as one, enjoyed ourselves and won the last game. The Elite League was the dose [of cricket] we needed this year’. 

Janet Mbabazi attempting to play a shot on a short pitched delivery (Photo credits: Kawawo Sports/ Bata Images)

Having not been able to play the game she loves for almost a year, Mbabazi spoke about the effects that the lockdown and COVID-19 had on her. ‘It was very strange, not being able to play cricket for that long! I remember one evening getting my kit ready for the first game of the season and the next day receiving information of the league being called off.’ Nonetheless, during her time away from competitive cricket, Mbabazi continued to work on self-improvement. She attended online classes while keeping in touch with cricket by hitting a cricket ball tied to a tree.   

Discussing the future of Ugandan women’s domestic cricket, the Ugandan international said ‘I believe there will be more tournaments/games for the women in the future, both locally and internationally’. Alongside her hopes, Mbabazi also noted that Soroti cricket academy ‘is doing a great job producing some good female players [and] I hope a lot of girls will be able to participate and challenge themselves.’

Janet Mbabazi goes for slog sweep trying to pick out cow corner during a Women’s Elite League match (Photo credits: Kawawo Sports/ Bata Images)

2021 is an exciting year for cricketers worldwide with a variety of different international qualification events taking place. The Uganda women’s team will travel to Botswana to compete during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier, scheduled for October 2021. The tournament will see Uganda play against Botswana, Cameroon, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in what promises to be a proper festival of African women’s cricket.

Reflecting on the tournament Mbabazi says, ‘I hope I make it to the team that will be playing in Botswana. There will be more teams playing, which means more games so I hope I can score runs for my team, have fun, win games and mostly learn.’

When asked about what excited her about the tournament, Mbabazi appeared to be exciting about the growth of women’s cricket in Africa. She is anticipating games against new opponents and looking forward to the opportunity to connect with ‘old friends’. 

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