Uganda heads into the World T20 Qualifiers as the only team representing the African continent in the tournament. Ahead of the start of their campaign, Women’s CricZone had the opportunity of getting an exclusive interview with Kevin Awino, captain of Uganda Women’s Cricket Team and here is what she had to say.
When asked what it meant to her and the squad to be able to represent their country internationally for the first time (the matches in the Qualifiers have been given the status of T20I’s, which previous matches between associate nations did not have), Awino said “We are very proud and happy to represent our country on the world stage. It’s a good opportunity for Uganda to be able to challenge ourselves and also enjoy the tournament.”
This is the first time Uganda’s team has won the Regional Qualifiers to reach the World T20 Qualifiers. They have matured as a squad throughout their journey to the World T20 Qualifiers and have grown more experienced. About their triumph in the Regional Qualifiers, Awino said, "In the Regional Qualifiers, we learnt a lot of things, but the best thing we learnt was to play as a team and also to believe in ourselves."
We spoke to Awino about the preparation the team put in heading into the World T20 Qualifiers and the team certainly did work hard to make sure they perform to the best of their abilities. Before the Qualifiers, they had "two tours to prepare for. One in Tanzania for six-game series with the host, which we (they) managed to win and also a Zimbabwe ladies T20 invitation tournament which we (they) won." These two wins mean the team carries "a lot of confidence coming to the Qualifiers."
There is no doubt the team have put blood, sweat and tears into their preparation, but the main hurdle remains to be crossed. Given that this is the first time Uganda has qualified, this will also be the first time they face-off against some of their opponents. When asked how tough it was going to be to compete against such teams, here is the answer we got, "It’s going to be tough for us because we will have to challenge ourselves as players so that we can challenge the other teams."
Indeed it is a two-way street. If Uganda has not faced them, then they have not faced Uganda either. Does Uganda have a few tricks up its sleeve to cause an upset? Maybe. But, one thing is for sure; the team does not shy away from new obstacles and learns from its mistakes when it stumbles on them, as Awino said, "We look forward to learn from our mistakes and what will challenge us in the tournament for the best of us."
We asked Awino what she, as the captain, thought the strengths of her team were and where they would like to improve. This was her answer. "As captain of Uganda, I believe we have a good bowling side and a good top batting order and I will be looking forward to improve on my responsibility as the leader of the team by working together as a team and communicating throughout the tournament, which is key to the team." The skipper has full confidence in her squad and knows they will deliver for their country when it counts.
According to the skipper, "the players are very excited and proud but also… nervous because it’s our first time, we are going to face challenges but, we will fight, enjoy and have fun in the Qualifiers."
The players know opportunities like this do not come around every day and it is a moment to cherish when you get to represent your country. Uganda’s participation in the Qualifiers "is going to attract many young female players to work hard and play in the local league. This Qualifier is a big motivation for all the young female cricketers and will attract the local sports media to help make women’s cricket more popular in Uganda." Awino believes that the Qualifiers present the perfect opportunity to publicize women’s cricket in Uganda and help spread its popularity.
Not only can the Qualifiers be used to promote women’s cricket in Uganda, they also present a once in a lifetime opportunity to the players of Uganda to win a chance to compete in the T20 World Cup against some of the best teams in women’s cricket at the moment. Will Uganda be able to qualify? We will just have to wait and see.