The Cricket Cranes tour of Rwanda for the last one week, was a huge success for the team.
The team’s participation in the ‘Cricket Build Hope’ tournament was a good confidence booster to the national team, considering how consistently they cranked up win after win.
Coach Stephen Tikolo said it was an opportunity to see new players, as he seeks to reinvigorate the team, following the May disaster when the Cricket Cranes were relegated to division four.
Since the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament, the Cricket Cranes had never assembled for any particular competitive game. So, the tour to Rwanda was perfect timing.
“We brought in many new and young players, as opposed to the known faces, because we wanted to examine how well they can play at national team level,” Tikolo said.
A case in point, promising all-rounder, the youthful Kenneth Waiswa, who plies his trade for Aziz Damani, was not only part of the 14-man squad, but he was named vice-captain. This can only go a long way in uplifting his confidence as a future team leader.
The team had nine youngsters, making their debut for the senior team. They included Fred Achelam, Steven Wabwose, Zephania Arinaitwe and Simon Ssessaazi, who have impressed in the domestic league.
Ssessaazi, a left-handed batsman, comes across as the real deal. His performances in the league were good, albeit not always consistent. Ssessaazi had a strike-rate of 74 per cent in the league for Charity cricket club, while Abdallah Lubega notched a strike-rate of 77 per cent for Tornado Bees.
During the tour, played on T20 format, Ssessaazi’s knocks of 50 runs in a couple of games is clearly something Tikolo will mull over in a bid to make his squad more competitive.
Furthermore, Tikolo said because the team has been inactive as a unit for nearly five months, getting some game time together is important to build combinations and cohesion.
It goes without saying that after the team’s collapse in May, some cricket patrons feel that some of the senior players ought to retire now, to give the national team a fresh start with these youngsters.
But Tikolo is not one to get carried away. He always wants to give every player a chance. Age must not be the issue, but performances. So, if a young player is not playing well, yet a veteran is, and can contribute to the team’s success, Tikolo can never sideline them.
It is against such background that Roger Mukasa, Deus Muhumuza and Brian Masaba, who have been on the team for at least six years, made the Rwanda tour. Tikolo said the focus is now on preparing the team for the division four world cricket league tournament next year.
Thereafter, a new wave, planning another shot at division two, will get into force. It is still a long way to that point, as is the challenge of building a formidable side.
The opposition faced in British sides such as Christopher Shale, Grannies and Yorkshire Tea, is anything but formidable, for the Cricket Cranes to start feeling larger than life.
But the feeling of winning again comes with invaluable positives in every sense especially the mental and psychological fortitude, resourcefulness, unpredictability and pragmatism which the Cricket Cranes lacked in May.