By JAPHETH KAZENGA, 27th December 2011 @ 13:32, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 3026
AS domestic sports stakeholders look back at what has so far been an eventful year in the country’s sporting arena, cricket lovers will, more than anybody else, be proud of what they have achieved this season.
While a handful of sports disciplines have encountered a series of disappointing news, it is all smiles for the cricket fans in Tanzania thanks to tremendous achievement the country’s cricketers have enjoyed in both domestic and continental competitions.
Cricket, by and large, has proved to be a sport that is slowly gaining stranglehold in the country and this year’s success in the sport stands to offer inspiration for the quest for much more achievement next season.
With the Tanzania Cricket Association (TCA) effectively cooperating with regional cricket committees in several of the active regions in the promotion of the sport, the signs that the sport is bound to be one of the most successful and respected sporting disciplines in a few years to come are definitely there for all to see.
For the domestic cricket lovers, this year will possibly go down as among the most memorable when it comes to achievement in the sport, which has surprisingly continued to win the hearts of a good number of the local youth.
Domestic cricket lovers’ celebrations this season started as early as January, when TCA hosted this year’s Advanced Players League (APL), which involves top domestic cricket players and several invited professionals from some of the world cricket big guns.
Four franchises, as it has always been the case in the Twenty20 annual event, lined up for what was expected to be a quite entertaining competition chiefly designed to offer domestic cricketers opportunity to gain experience.
This year’s APL brought together teams namely Dar Devils, Simba Hunters, Twiga Warriors and Uluguru Stars with all striving to prove their worth on the pitch and win lucrative prize money set aside for the champions.
Nine professional cricketers from Kenya, India and South Africa were invited to participate in the tournament, whose matches were held at the Annadil Burhani venue in Dar es Salaam, with a view to spicing the event and providing their expertise to the domestic players.
The professionals and their respective countries were Alfred Luseno, Dominick Wesonga and Lucas Oluoch (Kenya), Amar Arte, Neil Narvekar and Mihier Singh (India), Nicholas Lockyer, Prince Buntu and Yusuf Abdullah (South Africa).
Luseno, Wesonga and Oluoch played for Dar Devils, Arte, Narverkar and Singh featured for Uluguru Stars as Lockyer, Buntu and Abdullah turned out for Simba Hunters. Twiga Warriors was entirely formed by domestic players, with all of them also playing for the senior men’s national team.
After a series of exciting duels, Twiga Warriors eventually had the last laugh as the team commanded an unbeaten spell on its way to winning the trophy and cash prize accompanying the title.
Twiga Warriors, led by skipper Hamis Abdallah, was undoubtedly the best out of the four participating teams and the team’s superiority was substantiated by solid all round displays and spirited team work approach the squad’s players applied throughout the tournament.
The APL final pitting Dar Devils against Twiga Warriors offered a vivid account of the latter’s dominance in the tournament, in which Twiga Warriors gallantly marched to triumph after garnering a 31-run victory.
Twiga Warriors won the toss and elected to bat, in which they carefully exploited their familiarity with the Annadil Burhani pitch to record 128 runs for the loss of seven wickets in the allotted 20 overs, prior to confidently defend the score thereafter.
The team’s most trusted batsmen, Kassim Nassor (39 runs off 34 balls) and Benson Mwita (35 runs off 28 balls) controlled the innings superbly to ensure the impressive double digit total was in sight midway through the innings and, despite being dismissed during the closing stages, their team mates chipped in to boost the total.
Twiga Warriors then unleashed their bowling virtuosity to limit their opponents to 97 runs all out in 19 overs to cap a wonderful spell. The APL tournament, basically, served as preparations for the senior national cricket team that was expected to participate in this year’s ICC Africa Division Two Twenty20 Qualifiers scheduled for May 14-18 in Benoni, South Africa.
The Dar es Salaam event, thus, turned into a crucial platform for assessing the senior cricketers’ weaknesses and strengths, as well as shaping them ahead of the much more tasking assignment in South Africa. The presence of the nine professional cricketers also became extremely advantageous to the domestic players that participated in the tournament as the latter admitted to have learnt a lot from their experienced fellows.
The month of May then became the first in a series of opportunities for domestic cricketers to attempt to flex their muscles at the continental level as the senior men’s national team represented the country in the ICC Africa Division Two Twenty20 Qualifiers.
Tanzania came up against Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland and Sierra Leone in the tournament, in which the top two teams were to qualify for the Division One event penned for the following month in Kampala, Uganda.
The Tanzanians had high hopes of excelling in the event and possibly land one of the top two spots considering their squad was the highest ranked in the ICC Regional Development competitions in comparison to the rest.
As a matter of fact, out of the eight participating teams in the South Africa event, Tanzania was the only side competing in the ICC World League Division Four while Nigeria and Botswana were the second ranked sides thanks to their presence in the ICC World League Division Seven.
Tanzania senior cricketers, though, failed to live up to their expectations after managing a fourth position in the ICC Africa Division Two Twenty20 Qualifiers behind champions, Nigeria, runners-up Ghana and third-placed Botswana.
Tanzania had previously started the tournament on a sound note after securing victory against Rwanda, Mozambique and Swaziland but a narrow two-run defeat the Tanzanians suffered at the hands of Sierra Leone eventually jeopardized their campaign. With their winning run having already been snapped, the Tanzanians had no option but picking themselves up and they did so by scrapping to a win over Ghana in the next game.
The team’s desire to finish the event on a high, nevertheless, had already waned as it went on to lose the remaining two matches against Botswana and Nigeria. With that, the Tanzanians’ attempt to qualify for the ICC Africa Division One Twenty20 Qualifiers ended on a rather frustrating note, leaving Nigeria and Ghana as the only sides progressing to the Kampala tournament.
The South Africa tournament, all in all, revealed there was plenty to be done to ensure Tanzania’s senior cricketers excel in both continental and international competitions. The senior men’s national team proved to have lacked consistency in batting, a weakness that put the squad in difficult position particularly when chasing opponents’ scores in matches.
The need for the senior men’s national team to improve its batting approach, as well as applying patience at the crease, therefore remained vital for the team’s plan to ultimately become a force to reckon with in continental cricket.
Tanzania senior men cricketers might have failed to put smiles on the faces of the domestic cricket lovers but the latter still had plenty to cheer on in the sport’s development in the country for the remaining part of this season.
Domestic cricket saw Dar es Salaam extend its dominance in junior competitions particularly in the boys’ category after the region’s U-19 combined squad, namely Dar U-19, won this year’s TCA U-19 Regional Boys tournament played in the city earlier this month. The event, which also involved junior squads from Arusha, Morogoro and another Dar es Salaam outfit, Academy Boys U-19, culminated with Dar U-19 laying hands on silverware with only one defeat as Morogoro youngsters finished second.
Dar U-19 squad’s success in the tournament, incidentally, said a lot on the efforts that the region has put in developing cricket at the junior level and ensured the region continues to hold its own against other regions at the level.
Domestic women cricketers, who had for a long time been less privileged when it comes to opportunities to participate in competitions, finally had a taste of competitive action as TCA hosted two competitions, TCA Women League and Mwalimu Nyerere Twenty20 Women League played from mid October to November.
Six clubs from Dar es Salaam and Morogoro lined up for the two events, in which Dar es Salaam fielded Academy Girls, Dar es Salaam Combine, Mkwawa Girls and Zanaki Girls while Morogoro had Morogoro Girls and Uluguru Girls.
Women cricketers had, until then, been competing in only one event at the domestic level, namely TCA Regional Women Championship involving regional squads of Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, thus, the presence of two more competitions offered a timely boost in efforts to develop the sport among women.
A series of nail-biting duels eventually culminated with Academy Girls winning the TCA Women League trophy with a hard fought three-wicket victory over Uluguru Girls in the final played at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) venue in Morogoro on October 23. Academy Girls, boasting of a marvellous combination of young and experienced players, put their all round virtuosity to show and gave their opponents little room to manoeuvre any trick.
Uluguru Girls started to bat and attempted to showcase their batting prowess, when they went on to post 125 runs all out in the innings that saw skipper, Asha Daudi, score 41 runs to lead the quest for a good total. Swaum Salum (13 runs) and Nasra Hamza (nine runs) were the other batters that offered notable support in the innings. Academy Girls then had a successful chase of their opponents’ target as they reached it for the loss of seven wickets to emerge champions.
Morogoro women cricketers later on revenged for their failure to win the TCA Women League as Morogoro Girls won the Mwalimu Nyerere Twenty20 League with victory over their fellows, Uluguru Girls, in the final played at the SUA venue. The most interesting revelation to have emerged out of the two competitions was the rise of Morogoro women cricketers, whose impressive performance offered a clear indication on the increasing rivalry between them and their Dar es Salaam counterparts.
Solid all round displays showcased by both Morogoro Girls and Uluguru Girls in the two events proved the region was on course for dominating women cricket for years to come. Experienced players Monica Paschal (Morogoro Girls) and Asha Daudi (Uluguru Girls) inspired young players in their respective squads to put determined performance and ensured their sides finish matches with impressive statistics.
Morogoro women’s success in the two events further helped them make up for their failure to triumph in the TCA Regional Women Championship played at the University of Dar es Salaam venue (UDSM) earlier this year, in which Morogoro Combined Women team finished second behind champions, Dar es Salaam Combined.
In an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’ during the Dar es Salaam event, Monica revealed Morogoro girls stand a better chance to dominate the sport in the women category in the next few years thanks to their determination in training. “Morogoro girls love cricket so much…they hardly need to be pushed around during training and they work really hard”, said Monica, who supervises junior development programme on the part of girls in the region.
Monica said despite facing several shortfalls including lack of sufficient cricket equipment for training, Morogoro girls’ hard work and strong desire to excel put them at a much more advantageous position to achieve enormous success as opposed to their Dar es Salaam counterparts, who have not achieved much despite having more venues for training and sufficient equipment.
The domestic women cricketers’ participation in the TCA Women League and Mwalimu Nyerere Twenty20 Women League, basically, was meant to shape them ahead of this year’s continental competitions slated for November and December in Dar es Salaam and Kampala, Uganda, respectively.
The two events, coupled with intensive training camps held before the two continental competitions, looked to have improved the domestic women cricketers’ performance tremendously, as evidenced by their success in the continental events.
National U-19 women team, for one, made domestic cricket lovers proud, when it won the Africa Cricket Association (ACA) U-19 Championship played in Dar es Salaam after getting the better of other competitors namely Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda.
With a squad comprising players that helped it qualify for the final in the East Africa U-19 Women Championship in Dar es Salaam for the past two years, the national U-19 girls were too strong for their opponents in the Twenty-20 formatted games as they outplayed the latter in all aspects, losing only one match in the process.
It was then the senior national women cricketers’ turn to attempt establishing themselves as a feared force at the continental level, when they represented the country in the inaugural ICC Africa Women Twenty20 Championship played in Kampala mid this month. The event also attracted Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and hosts Uganda.
Despite battling hard, the Tanzanian ladies finished second behind champions, Uganda while Namibia came third as Kenya, Nigeria and Sierra Leone finished fourth, fifth and last respectively. Tanzania had tied Uganda on points, number of wins and losses but the latter sneaked to the top spot in the standings, and ultimately won trophy, on the basis of having the better net run rate of 2.814.
Tanzania had to settle for the second position with a net run rate of 2.264 while third-placed Namibia had a net run rate of 1.489. Hosts Uganda might have emerged champions of the tournament but it was the Tanzanian ladies that reigned supreme in individual awards after grabbing all honours courtesy of their commitment in the games.
Tanzania’s experienced skipper Monica Paschal, won the best batter award, fellow veterans, Hawa Mgoa and Mwanaidi Ibrahim, took the best bowler and best all rounder awards respectively while the up-and-coming player, Mwanaidi Amy, won the best young player honour.
The award won by the younger Mwanaidi, in the end, became memorable feat to have been achieved by the Tanzanian ladies considering the 12-year girl, who is a product of the thriving junior development programme in Morogoro, had just one and a half years in competitive cricket.
A marvellous combination of experience and youthfulness in the senior national women team, to a great extent, lived up to the coaching panel’s expectations as experienced players led by Monica combined well with younger players from the U-19 squad, Mwanaidi, Esther Wallace, Jessica Mawole, Mariam Muona, Sophia Seif, Happiness George, Swaum Salum and Zakia Saguti to form a strong squad in the event.
“We had tied Uganda on points, number of wins and losses but the latter had 20 more points in the net run rate and they eventually won the trophy. Honestly, they were not happy with their success because we were close to stunning them at their very backyard”, said Tanzania’s coach, Riziki Kiseto, in a telephone interview with the ‘Daily News’ from Kampala.
This season further witnessed yet more inspiring revelation, which is that of Arusha’s participation in the TCA Regional Women Championship and TCA Regional U-19 Boys Championship played in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam respectively. Arusha failed to stamp its authority in both events after the women and boys’ squads lost all of their matches to finish at the bottom of the standings but the region’s participation was the most important aspect considering the two teams gained experience.
With Arusha fielding squads in the regional competitions, the move proved efforts by TCA to spread cricket across the country were slowly bearing fruits and that definitely augurs well for the future of the sport at the domestic level. TCA, ultimately, deserves a pat on the back for all the successes garnered in the sport this season, but that should definitely not make the body, and the sport’s stakeholder, rest on their laurels as they still face plenty of challenges in their plan to turn Tanzania into a cricket powerhouse in the continent.
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