ICC Twenty20 to test Uganda’s mettle

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The name Mehta Group is synonymous with cricket in Uganda. Owing to their rich connections, the sponsor hired the services of two experts from the Indian Premier League outfit, Kolkata Knight Riders.

Physical and fitness trainer Adrian Le Roux and assistant coach Vijay Dahiya spent six days with the national side passing on skills and offering technical advice ahead of a busy 2013 calendar season.

Apart from this, cricket kits were also provided to the two senior national teams (men and women). Playing jerseys, training gear, bats, helmets, and protective wear were included.

Uganda started off its 2013 campaign with a humbling 4-1 defeat against United Arab Emirates. To say they were humbled, is to put it mildly. As is the case with these trips, you go to a game as a child goes to school with a pen and note book.

Nevertheless, the new-look side is full of promise, according to national team coach Martin Suji. It boasts South Africa-based Khaalid Moothosamy, UK-based Shaaiq Choudry Hussain, Mitch Horrocks and Mohammed Shafeek. The national league’s T20 edition is under way, with the latter two players turning out for local sides Tornado and Rwenzori Warriors respectively, while Moothosamy and Hussain have been snapped up by Nile.

Team Uganda still has a lot to improve on, starting with forming partnerships at the crease. Their batting coach, the Kenyan stalwart Steve Tikolo, has lamented their low turnover during matches.

In Nairobi last December, Uganda won their first match against Kenya’s U-23 by 41 runs, but they were bowled out in 39 overs while setting a target. They tumbled in the subsequent games, scoring 140 in 37.3 overs to lose by four wickets, and posting 148 in 48.3 overs in the final match.

Comfortably averaging sub-200 scores, the returns in these matches and the 10 in Abu Dhabi do not make for good reading, a statistic Tikolo says they are working on improving.

Uganda will re-ignite an old rivalry in their title defence of the International Cricket Council Africa Twenty20 Championship when they play against Kenya in their opening game. The last time this competition was held, Uganda overcame Namibia in the final, winning by six wickets with 2.2 overs to spare.

The Pepsi-sponsored event shall commence on February 23rd to March 1st, 2013. It shall include five teams from across Africa; Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda, the tournament hosts.

Uganda need to finish amongst the top two countries to regain admission into Division II, and also to advance to the World Cup qualifiers when they compete in the Pepsi ICC Division III World Cricket League in Bermuda later this year.

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