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Craig Williams: Uganda’s T20 World Cup qualification puts them on the map

Last updated on 12 Dec 2023 | 06:45 AM
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Craig Williams: Uganda’s T20 World Cup qualification puts them on the map

In a chat with, the former Namibia skipper, who was Uganda's high-performance consultant during the Qualifiers, spoke about the team's journey

For Craig Williams, the recent African Qualifiers was, in a way, a win-win situation. Williams, who played over 400 games for Namibia and also turned up for them at the T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE, has now played a huge role in helping Uganda reach their first-ever world event but this time as a coach.

Namibia and Uganda became the last two teams to qualify for the mega event next year in the United States and West Indies. Appointed the high-performance consultant of the Ugandan men’s side ahead of the Qualifiers, Williams agreed to help the side out in their quest to create history.

What followed was a clinical performance from the Cricket Cranes, which saw them get one over Zimbabwe – a Test nation – in their very first attempt.

Williams, who runs an indoor centre and sports shops in Windhoek, is no stranger to beating Zimbabwe, having been part of the Namibian side that won a bilateral series 3-2 in 2021. He earned the Player-of-the-match in two of those matches.

Having lost to hosts Namibia in their previous game, Williams believes it was a magnificent achievement to bounce back and defeat Sikandar Raza’s side just a couple of days later.

“We tried to simplify the tactics for the boys. Our game plan throughout the tournament did not change. Our bowling plan stayed the same,” Williams said in a chat with

“We tried to make use of the wind direction and the size of the boundaries. The guys pulled it off really well against Zimbabwe. I think the fact that we can keep such a strong batting line-up down to 136 and the way got our wickets showed that the guys believed and stuck to the game plan.

“It is a great achievement for the guys to beat Zimbabwe. They came out firing. They were really hungry for the win. Against Namibia, we didn't execute our plans like we wanted to, whereas against Zimbabwe, the guys came out and executed well."

Uganda have an excellent mixture of experience with players in their 20s, 30s and 40s (YES, FORTIES!) 43-year-old Frank Nsubuga has been playing competitive cricket right from 1997 – first for East and Central Africa and then for Uganda. 

Williams, who played against Uganda and Nsubuga plenty of times during his playing days with Namibia, says that the Cricket Cranes deserve their place at the T20 World Cup.

“I've played against Uganda from when I first started playing for Namibia in 2007,” Williams recalled.

“I've had lots of battles with these guys on the field. I've played against Frank the Tank for many, many years. What it comes down to is that one percent and that's what I told the guys I am trying to give them - A little bit of edge, maybe something I say or do tactically or game plan-wise that might help them.

“Especially in qualifying cricket, it is the one percent that counts in the end. These guys pulled it off. I am so happy for them. They are such a great bunch of guys.

“I've always gotten along with the Ugandan squad over all the years that I have played. It was just a great feeling to be part of this group of guys and coaching staff when they achieved this success. It has been a long time coming for them. I'm so grateful to be a part of it.”

Williams believes one of the main reasons for the team’s success is the camaraderie they have within the team.

“The team build-up is of India, Pakistan and the Uganda guys. They get along really well. They have a professional set-up. I know associate cricket is sometimes known to being amateur cricket, but these guys are 100 percent serious,” Williams said.

“They are really good cricket players. With the right guidance, just shows what they can achieve. In terms of the team spirit, it is just fantastic. These guys all come from different areas, but they've got the same goal to represent Uganda. We always spoke about the 49 million people back home in Uganda - it's not just about yourself, it's about them. These guys really came together and did the job.”  

Such has been the atmosphere in the dressing room by head coach Jackson Ogwang. He brought a sense of calmness into the dressing room; it rubbed off well on others, and the results are there for the world to see.

“From day one, he said to me, 'Craig, you are here to help us, just enjoy yourself,'” Williams said

“He's obviously still learning, and he worked quite a lot under Lawrence [Mahatlane], the previous head coach. The way he handles the squad, the way he handles the tactics of the team is really good. He is new to the head coach role.

“He was just brilliant throughout the tournament. Nice and calm - I must still learn that calmness. I think I still have a little bit of player in me and I get a bit excited. He is also a good guy for the players to be able to confide in when things don't go well. 

"For him, this is an amazing achievement. He's an asset to Ugandan cricket. He's homegrown, he's come through the ranks. So, it's fantastic to have someone like him involved.”

Shifting focus on Namibia for just a bit, the Eagles have continued to soar with qualifying for their third T20 World Cup in a row. They beat Sri Lanka in the mega event last year and now have made a habit of beating Zimbabwe as well.

Williams believes that their performances in the recent past serve as a stern wake-up call for Test nations.

“The gap is definitely closing. In Namibia, there are so many youngsters who are coming through. Same with the Ugandan team. We had some really good youngsters coming through. Robbo [Robinson Obuya], who didn't get many games, but I saw him in the nets and worked a lot with him. So, there's so much talent.

“Our Test nations must stay on their toes. These African countries are catching up quickly. Even when you look at the Nigerias and Tanzanias, there are some special players. I think the big thing is to get the exposure and coaching back home in their country. The amount of cricket they play, if we can all play some more cricket...Namibia has turned over Zimbabwe seven times in 11 games. If that's not a sign that our Test brothers must be awake, I don't know what is.”

Other than Zimbabwe, West Indies recently missed out on a chance to make it through to the recent World Cup in India after losing to the Netherlands and Scotland, further driving Williams’ point home.

Qualifiers are “just a different beast on its own,” says Williams.

“With associate cricket, it is very different from Test cricket. We've been through qualifiers. For the last 14 years, I've been through qualifiers. I've been on the good end of qualifiers, I've been on the terrible end of qualifiers. It's cut-throat cricket. You have all the teams there who've got the opportunity and have got the same goal as you. That's, unfortunately, where our Test nations have struggled,” he further explains.

With the qualification for the T20 World Cup secured, Williams believes one of Uganda’s next major goals should be faring well in the 50-over format, and that would hopefully one day give them a crack at playing another World Cup. 

The last time Uganda played in the 50-over World Cup Qualifiers was in 2014 in New Zealand, where they finished at the bottom along with Nepal. Ten years later, both teams will finally compete at a World Cup.

“The big goal is to continue qualifying for World Cups. Continue to do really well as a squad and for the country. This is not a one-off for Uganda. What this does, is that it puts you on the map. It's good for the youth in the country. It gives the kids something to look forward to and something to work towards,” the former Namibia skipper said.

“The goal will be to continue qualifying and continue doing well also in 50-over cricket. T20 cricket brings everybody closer because of the shorter format, but your skills get tested when you start playing ODIs and 50-over cricket. That will also be the goal - to get Uganda doing well in the qualification for the 50-over tournaments.”

In terms of fixtures, Uganda have nothing yet in the pipeline for the next six months, barring the eight-team African Cup they will partake in from December 11 to 19 in Benoni. While the 19 other teams in the T20 World Cup have plenty of white-ball matches lined up in the next six months, Uganda, so far, have none.

Uganda are the lowest-ranked side to make the T20 World Cup and how they go about their planning over the next six months is going to be key in determining how they shape up at the marquee event. For now, they can bask in the glory of achieving something special, but when the dust settles, they will look to turn their attention towards adding to their glorious accomplishment.

(All images courtesy Uganda Cricket Association)

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