From slums of Kampala to T20 World Cup: Story of Uganda's inspirational rising stars | Crickit
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From slums of Kampala to T20 World Cup: Story of Uganda's inspirational rising stars

PTI |
May 30, 2024 04:34 PM IST

From slums of Kampala to T20 World Cup: Story of Uganda's inspirational rising stars

New Delhi, An estimated 60 per cent of Ugandan capital Kampala's population lives in slums and fast bowler Juma Miyagi is a cult figure in these impoverished areas.

From slums of Kampala to T20 World Cup: Story of Uganda's inspirational rising stars
From slums of Kampala to T20 World Cup: Story of Uganda's inspirational rising stars

These usually football-loving people would be keenly following him and the Ugandan cricket team's debut at the ICC T20 World Cup, trying to live a sporting dream through his exploits.

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Miyagi grew up in the slums of Naguru, located on the outskirts of Kampala, and two years after representing Uganda at the U-19 level in the Caribbean, the 21-year-old will be shouldering the senior team's bowling attack at the ICC showpiece that kicks off on June 1.

Uganda qualified for their maiden cricket World Cup last November.

Miyagi, who has 34 wickets in 21 T20 Internationals, grew up in the slums and continues to live there with his family to date.

The same is the case for other T20 World Cup squad members including Simon Ssesazi and travelling reserve Innocent Mwebaze.

They have grown up in areas which lack clean water, sewage systems and have little or no access to health care in poorly constructed pigeonholes that pass for rooms.

Their fellow slum dwellers look up to them as all three of them have given hope to the struggling community.

Their story of hardship even moved Uganda's Indian head coach Abhay Sharma, who took charge of the team ahead of the ICC event beginning on Saturday.

Sharma is not completely unaware of slums as India has one of Asia's biggest slums in Dharavi, Mumbai but being in Kampala was eye-opening even for him.

Having spent some time with the players on and off the field, Sharma's respect for the players has increased multi-fold.

"Some of the players come from very humble backgrounds and it is inspiring to see them play for the national team.

"I didn't expect them to live in such conditions before I arrived. Their respect for coaches is also immense. The players think we can change their lives," he told PTI from Trinidad, where the team is based at the moment ahead of its World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Guyana on June 3.

Unlike players from USA, who will also be making their World Cup debut, a majority Ugandan players don't have secure full-time jobs to support themselves.

Cricket is still years away from becoming a professional sport and in that context, the four league games they will play at the big stage assume great significance for the future of the game at home.

Challenges that Uganda cricket faces

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Making a World Cup debut will be a lifetime experience for the players but to maintain the upward graph of the sport in the country, Sharma reckons certain changes have to be made to ensure Uganda don't go the Kenya way.

Kenya, once a regular in top-flight cricket, have not featured in any ICC event since 2011.

"It has been a good experience so far, there are certain things we need to improve. We need better infrastructure and also need to introduce the game at U-16 level," he said.

"At the moment, whoever does fairly well at the U-19 level is fast-tracked into the national team. We also need more grounds. They have two grounds but one of them is far from Kampala, it is a difficult daily commute."

The struggle of the players travels from their homes to the ground, where they have to fight for basics.

For someone who has coached sport's powerhouse India at the U-19 and A level, Sharma is trying hard to make the most of the minimal resources at his disposal.

"We need to fight for the basics. Like getting proper practice area, kookaburra balls, diet. We are carrying four boxes of balls for the World Cup. I am told they were only given one box for the whole tournament previously. Things are already changing in that context," said Sharma.

The squad has competent bowlers like Miyagi and Cosmas Kyewuta, who Sharma reckons can touch close to 150kmph and will be the one to watch out for in the mega event.

However, the talent pool remains small and that is another area where the head coach is already focussing on.

"Talent is there but not enough. We don't have bench strength and that is one thing we need to develop after the World Cup."

Like most associate nations, Uganda's strength lies in the bowling department.

"Batting is always the weaker link at the associate level. There are used to playing medium pacers but when they go one step higher, there is a big difference in pace.

"The spinners too are much better. I have already identified few players who can be tested after the World Cup," Sharma added.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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