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MCC in Uganda: Under African skies

A view of Lugogo Cricket Oval in Kampala
A view of Lugogo Cricket Oval in Kampala

When you throw together thirteen cricketers from across the UK, a first class umpire and head to Uganda for a two-week cricket tour you hope that everything clicks.

MCC's 2013 tour of Uganda has been one of overriding success both on and off the field, as the tourists have gelled brilliantly to combine playing tough cricket on the pitch, helping Ugandan and Rwandan cricket develop whilst enjoying some eye-opening experiences in the heart of Africa.

Old pros - such as former Queensland batsman Clinton Perren - and young bucks, like 22-year-old Joe Barrs of Saffron Walden CC, have mixed brilliantly under the captaincy of Wanstead CC's Arfan Akram and the steady hand of Tour Manager David Otway.

The beginnings

Before the tour set off from Lord's there was certainly anticipation as to what we would be met with when we touched down in Kampala.

On arrival, the welcome from Uganda Cricket Association was humbling. Their preparation for the tour has been superb and ferrying the players through the hustle and bustle of a very hot Kampala on a daily basis has been met with much gratitude.

The standard of cricket, particularly with Uganda, has been high. The second t20 was enthralling cricket, and at times almost bubbled over, but the MCC mantra of "Playing Hard and Playing Fair" was upheld.

As I write this MCC had played five, won two, lost two and drawn one; a 30-over match with Rwanda, a country with just one single cricket net, is still to be played on Monday 14 October.

MCC in Uganda photos

The three grounds we have visited all offered something different.

The Kyambogo Oval, which hosted the opening two-day fixture, was basic but relaxed in its nature. Entebbe Cricket Oval, which sits on the outskirts of Kampala, was a truly idyllic ground flanked by a golf course and greener than anything I've ever seen. And finally, the Lugogo Oval in the heart of Kampala is a vibrant space that local children flock to, to watch entertaining cricket before converging on the outfield for games of quick cricket.

Uganda cricket

Uganda are a side with a lot to offer and all the MCC tourists hope that they can qualify for the ICC World t20. A dream for every single one of them, as they have told me on many occasions.

Off the field we've experienced parts of Africa which some players would never have done without the opportunity MCC has given them.

A few that spring to mind are white water rafting down the Nile, coaching African school children and socialising in Kampala; while three of the tour party even bumped into Bugandan - the main tribe here - Royalty whilst out for a sightseeing tour of Kampala.

Moments of reflection

It may sound clichéd but travelling along dirt roads to Lake Victoria and witnessing the poverty that exists in rural Africa was a humbling experience. The warmth of the people in   the capital, where we are based, and outside in the countryside is something that none of the tour party will ever forget.

There have been moments when cricket has seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of things. One Rwandan player told me that he used to be one of eight children, but after the genocide in 1994, he became one of three.

A legacy

However, the place that cricket holds in both Ugandan and Rwandan minds is special. Players, coaches, spectators and scorers have all asked that MCC return to East Africa as soon as possible. They relish the challenge to play the club and the Spirit of Cricket has been there for all to see during the tour.

For many cricket has changed their life and MCC's tour has been one of inspiration.

When I interviewed MCC bowler Chad Barrett he put it simply: "There's a lot of kids watching…I really hope someone over the last couple of weeks just thinks 'I want to run in and bowl fast', that would be great."

Cricket does have the power to change lives, and albeit a very brief trip, one hopes that MCC has gone someway to doing that under African skies.

Coaching Uganda school children

Keep up to date with the tour by using #MCCinUganda and following @willroe2 on Twitter.

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