The classification for T20i cricket for Uganda started in 2019. Roger Mukasa was the captain of the team then, the format was still new to Ugandan players and some were even misunderstood because they were different.
Zephaniah Arinaitwe was (and still is) a fine talent with a small body but a big heart. However, since his debut in that tournament, he never got the backing that could have helped him bring out the roar.
The tournament in general is something local fans want to keep in the recycle bin of the brain. Uganda finished 4th behind Nigeria, Kenya and winners Namibia.
Fast forward to 2023 and six players from that team; Roger Mukasa, Henry Ssenyondo, Riazat Ali Shah, Frank Nsubuga, Dinesh Nakrani and Brian Masaba have another shot at the World Cup.
While the other five have remained largely part of the same set up, especially after the pandemic, Mukasa had taken a detour, especially during the uncertain times of the lockdowns. He missed the bulk of the games in 2021 and his brief return for the Global Qualifiers in Zimbabwe was also forgettable. He struggled against quality attacks and when you bat at the top of the order, there is nowhere to hide. His heart was in the right place but his powers seemed to be waning. Mukasa likes to dominate attacks by charging bowlers but in Zimbabwe, his touch was off.
Mukasa is a very selfless player who can do anything as long as it contributes to the result. He can keep wickets when need be or bowl some offies if that is what is required. He won the contest in Malaysia in 2018 when he stepped up as Captain and defended 5 runs off 6 balls against Denmark. To manage his workload he gave up the gloves and became an asset in the field with his agility which was a wise decision considering those who were showing interest in the same position were young and needed game time.
The clarity from those who were in charge gave Mukasa the confidence he needed to refocus on his first love. Like a dagger that is rough on the edges, he just needed more time in the nets and he would be good to go. He scored his first T20i half-century against Rwanda at the EA T20 Cup in 2022 because the thrill also reminded him that he isn’t 16 anymore as he went down with crumps.
Mukasa’s combination with Simon Ssesazi at the top of the order looked good especially because it was a left-right combination. Ssesazi has owned the opening slot since 2021 but once Mukasa started scoring runs, he has looked the vulnerable option in case the team wants to tweak things. He was prolific at the Continent Cup in Nairobi, scoring 220 runs with so many starts he failed to convert into big totals. He had another good run in Rwanda during the second edition of the EA T20 Cup and he looks determined to make up for lost time.
A leader of his generation with the bat, the lost time never took away Mukasa’s desire and in a format that suits his style of play his contributions at the top of the order might be what has been missing. He was used in the number 3 position in the tour to Zimbabwe so as to accommodate Ronak Patel and with Riazat Ali Shah coming at 4, it’s clear Cricket Cranes are going for broke with their top four lineup.
Roger has played at least 50 times in T20i for Uganda while he made his name playing List A cricket since his debut in 2009 he is yet to light up the T20 world. This might be his time to show the World what he can do and if Roger does well, Uganda always well.