Uganda have never been here. But they certainly know that it feels strange playing at the Division IV tier of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL).
To say the build-up has been inch-perfect would be a naked a lie. There have been some obstacles; many out of the team’s reach.
The Malaysians are intent on making home advantage count when they play Uganda in the tournament’s opener at Kinrara Academy Oval today.
They have been playing unwanted cat and mouse games for long spells. They planted cameras at Uganda’s training ground during the warm-up fixture against Malaysia ‘A’ and went further by delaying to have their tournament squad up on the Official ICC website – it wasn’t up on any website by press time – to the dismay of all the other competing nations.
Coach Steve Tikolo has been less amused by the hosts cunning ways.
He disclosed to Sunday Monitor that the Malaysians will be shell-shocked because he has several tricks up his sleeves.
“The only time we saw them was during the awards (Malaysia Cricket Association Awards Dinner Gala) on Friday night.
“Their squad hasn’t change much. We will work a way past them,” said Tikolo, a man who is literally worshipped at this meet for his heroics as a Kenyan player, a decade ago.
But Uganda captain Roger Mukasa has asked his brigade to focus their energies on only the positives.
‘Do not talk negatives’
“Let’s control what we can control,” like he has said over the past three days, Mukasa told his teammates after yesterday’s body strengthening and conditioning session at the exquisite Hotel Istana Gym and Swimming Pool.
“I don’t want you guys to talk about the negatives. That is in the past and let us look into the future with positiveness. We have the talent and ammunition in our ranks. Let’s speak with our playing style. It will be a perfect answer.”
Although Uganda has tweaked its side with some exciting young additions following the backlash of the Division III showpiece in Uganda last year, Malaysia are likely to field the same side that went down by four wickets to the Cricket Cranes courtesy of Mohammed ‘Afridi’ Irfan’s swashbuckling century – 108 off 71 – at Lugogo.
Captain Ahmed Faiz and top order batsmen Virandeep Singh and Shafiq Sharif, who got a quick half century (58 off 55) will be the men that Mukasa pays extra caution to when they walk in.
And with the wicket expected to take spin, left arm othordox Henry Ssenyondo and off spinner Frank Nsubuga, who shared seven scalps against the Asians in Kampala, will be fancying their chances again.
The opening bowling pair of Muhammad Wafiq and Neville Liyanage could be considered by the hosts to have a go at the Ugandans again considering their wicket-taking and economical spells last May.
A win for top seeds Uganda over Malaysia, who are the second seeds and pundits favourites, will give them momentum at the six-nation showpiece.