Junior Kwebiiha has had the best of both worlds, a successful career on the field and a more successful off the field as a professional.
A product of the famous School Development Programme by Uganda Cricket and coming through the cricket power house Busoga College Mwiri, the stars were already aligned for Kwebiiha to shine.
He won lots with Mwiri and it was no surprise when he was chosen to captain Uganda at an early age. A powerful mid order batsman and also a smart medium pace bowler, JK as he refereed to in cricket circles is one of the best all rounders of his generation.
As captain he found it hard to get along with his most prized asset Kenneth Kamyuka but none the less they were both fighting for the same cause. Comparisons between the two for who was the best in Mwiri were always subjective but whatever either lacked was made up in the strength of both.
Kwebiiha went on to have a successful career with MTN Uganda, then Ezzymoney Uganda as CEO and now as a consultant with UNCDF in Zambia. He has found Zambia home with his family since last year but keenly follows Uganda Cricket from afar.
Kawowo Sports caught up with Junior Kwebiiha for an interview.
Qn: You have been away for sometime but as someone interested in cricket, if you try looking in what can UCA do moving forward given the relegation of the senior team to Division 4?
Ans: I don’t think there is one specific thing to fix the problem. I think it is a series of things that need to be done simultaneously. Need to get the structure feeding the national team, feeding it with quality. Under-age teams need more exposure (as so does the national side). But we need development side that is actively playing and also exposed.
Developing a core for the national team around which the rest of the team can be built. If you look at previous national sides you have had a core 5 players that held the team together not just on the field but also off the field.
I think the national team, technical team and some other key stakeholders should be involved in a session to review performance of the team and develop and 5-year strategy for the team. This session should include the current team and some players from previous National teams. Basically, build a strategy with the players.
Exposure of some players to other leagues will also help with getting the team players more experience, exposure and so on
Qn: When I was in Mwiri there was a battle between yourself and Kenneth Kamyuka who the better player was, what is you take on the same?
Ans: Well, in high school there is always going to be competition, who balls faster, who hits the ball further and so on, so yes there was always the rivalry to try and show who the better player was. As I matured with more time on the National side and also got exposed to various other things both on the field and off the field (Professional career) I learnt that there was no need for that. I brought something to the team that he didn’t and he brought something to team that I didn’t, and combined we added value. I know that he was one of the most talented players of his time but certainly not the best cricketer that Uganda has ever produced. Different times, different conditions do not allow you to make such a comparison in my opinion. I, however, do acknowledge that he was one of the better players that I represented Uganda with.
Qn: Besides Davis, you are one of Uganda’s longest serving captains. What stands out as your best memory as National team captain?
Ans: Winning the 3-day inter-continental game against Namibia in Windhoek for me would go down as my best memory. It was the first time we were playing in that format of the game, we were away for home and the team really worked hard.
Qn: And Worst?
Ans: The game against Oman in South Africa where they chased down our score in a way that we really didn’t have any answers to them on the day. We thought we had put up a good score only for them to chase it down in such an aggressive manner. I regret that day, cause the last wicket and Kenneth Kamyuka was running in to bowl. Asadu had bowled well that day and I couldn’t shake the thought to stop Kenneth and change the bowler to Asadu. I don’t know if that would have changed anything, but if there is any decision that rings in my head is definitely that one.
Qn: The UCA SDP programme produced some of the best players in your generation but now the quality seems so low. What is the difference between now and then?
Ans: Again, I don’t think that this is “Silver bullet” type of answer but it is a mix of various things. We had time after class to actually engage in sport in almost all the top cricketing schools. Today a lot of the schools are purely focusing on the education, people are doing night prep and don’t have time to develop other skills that aren’t directly focused on education.
There is a significant reduction of investment of clubs in school students. So you don’t have many quality students coming out to play in the clubs and of course that means it is also affecting the quality of school cricket. And the investment here is not necessarily monetary but the amount of time it took to coach and give students playing time for clubs.
Qn: You served as Chairman of Selectors for a short while, and the current team has been criticized for failing to make the hard decisions of dropping players and introducing new faces in the team. How hard is it to make these calls?
Ans: It is isn’t hard. It is a matter of principle. I was very clear with the technical committee about certain principles that I stood by and that I asked the technical committee would also adopt. Many of these principles are age old principles like discipline.
That said, the decision to groom a team for the future is something beyond just the technical committee, it is about the entire association knowing the impact of that decision and what each person is going to have to do to achieve that objective. Nurturing a team from under age groups to a national team can take 5 – 10 years. Everyone has to be ready for that process and the implications.
Qn: You have managed to have a successful career out of sports, this inevitably affected your cricket. Was it an easy decision sacrificing one for the other?
Ans: It wasn’t an easy decision to make but rather one that I based on principle. I (together with the U-19 team members that joined the National team in 2001) worked extremely hard to make the team. I do not believe that representing my country is something that calls for less than 100% commitment. I was unable to give 100% of my time to the coach and/or the team. It was not fair to any youngster that was committing 100% of their time for them to miss a place even after all their hard work. I believe that commitment deserved reward.
The more difficult thing for me has been my being unable to actively contribute to the sport (aside from being on the selection committee). I am challenging myself to contribute to the sport whether through my club or otherwise starting with the second half of 2017
Qn: Some of the best players who have played with whether in school or with the national team?
Ans: Guy Kimbowa Lutaaya, Joel Olwenyi, Kennet Kamyuka, Franco Nsubuga, Benjamin Musoke, Peter Kaijuka, Simon Nsubuga, Nehal Bibodi
Qn: Your ideal Uganda XI with you in it?
Ans: Tough one…
- Joel Olwenyi
- Roger Mukasa
- Nehal Bibodi
- Guy Kimbowa Lutaaya (Capt)
- Junior Kwebiiha
- Benjamin Musoke
- Komakech (RIP)
- Simon Nsubuga
- Kenneth Kamyuka
- Franco Nsubuga
- Richard Okia
Qn: What are you up to now that we don’t see you in colored clothing anymore?
Ans: Currently I am Digital Financial Services Consultant based in Zambia, but also enjoying time playing golf and of course time with the family as well.
Qn: Kamyuka didn’t mince words when he said he is Uganda’s greatest player ever, do you agree with him?
Ans: No, I don’t agree with him but again what is the definition of greatest? Is it records? I agree that he has records that will stand for a very long time, and some might also not be broken in our lifetime, however, I don’t think he is the greatest player ever. If he said he was the greatest player of his time, I would be more open to agree with him.
Qn: Besides Cricket which other sports have you tried out?
Ans: I played basketball and even tried out for the National team in 2015 (if my memory serves me right). I currently play golf off handicap 9
I played soccer in school but really only at inter-house level and nothing more.
Ans: Any chance your kids will play cricket for Uganda?
Qn: That will not be something I force on them but I will have them involved in sports for sure and I will support them in whichever sport they grow to love and are committed to. I have seen the impact of sports on my life (both personal and professionally) and would definitely make sure that my children take up sports actively and competitively. I will push them to be good at whatever sport they like.
Qn: One run to win, which Uganda player would you want to be on strike?
Ans: Joel Olwenyi
Qn: Winning catch, which player would you want to be under it?
Ans: Benjamin Musoke
Qn: Best ground you have played on in your career?
Ans: Centurion Park in South Africa. Joel Olwenyi once let a ball go through his legs for 4 so he could show the rest of us what happens on the big screen.
Qn: Over the years who has been the best mate you played with and the worst?
Ans: Charles Lwanga (RIP) he was my roommate on almost every tour. He gave me good counsel and also challenged me when I needed to step up on several occasions both as a player and as a captain.
I wouldn’t say worst, I would say most challenging to captain. Kenneth Kamyuka. Kenny is my friend but his fire and passion to win sometimes got the better of him and made him quite challenging for me to captain on several occasions as a young captain. As we played together more, we got to work a way that we both didn’t kill each other.
Qn: Any regrets, cricket?
Ans: None at all. I love the sport, I met some of the greatest friends, mentors, advisers and team mates through the game.
Manchester United or Arsenal?
F1 or MotoGP?
- F1 (Not that I follow it)
No. 3 or No. 5?
- N0 5
Bouncer or Yorker? (As a batsman)
Slips or Covers?
Virat Kohli or Joe Root?
- Virat Kholi (Simply nice to watch)
T20 or Test Cricket?
Bowling 1st or Batting 1st?
- Bowling first