First, I would like to thank the editor of yesterday's post for including the picture I sent as a joke... much appreciated!
Today we are off to practice at the ground in which we will be playing all our matches. We were greeted with a beautifully floodlit stadium with 11,000 seats in the outskirts of the city. After walking out to the middle, I made the decision to wear two helmets as the wicket looked like marble. As it turned out I was cat-fished – the wicket was slow, low and two-paced.
As I haven't hit a ball outdoors for 5 months, I decided to just have some fun getting bat on ball, and I was cautious about playing a shot that would jeopardise my shoulder. As a team it became obvious that the conditions are very alien from which we are used to. The air was heavy, and the outfield was slow. This meant scoring boundaries was going to be difficult come game time tomorrow. Although we were due to play all of our matches under lights we did not get to experience catching or facing bowling in these conditions. This played on my mind but as I said in yesterday's post: you can only control the controllable (excuse the cliché).
Not much to report from the evening, cheeky Nandos followed by the pool and some foam rolling.
Day 3: The highs and lows of sport
When I was 17, one of the cricket coaches at school (who once played for Gloucestershire) said to me that "as a batsman you fail more often than you succeed." He went on to quote Andrew Strauss who said "you should never get too high or too low." This quote has stuck with me and has never been more relevant for me than today.
We started today with an extensive team meeting. The meeting included the general chat and cricket clichés about how we will play our cricket and so on and so forth. I have found the Ugandans to be very passionate, direct, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves - much more than the British do. This initially caught me off guard, but I am slowly adapting to it.
It is obvious that there are still open wounds from the recent relegation from division 3, and this regularly permeates the majority of conversations causing upset amongst the team. I found my role within in the team was to provide positive and happy energy whilst off the field.
My role as a player has been emphasised to me a lot: I need to score a lot of runs for the team. As of right now, this hasn't added any pressure to me, but it will be interesting to see how I feel whilst waiting to bat tonight.
The second the sun set behind the top row of the stadium's seats, I saw the team's analyst, Alvin, diving for a second jumper. Alvin can usually be seen running whilst wearing a woolly hat in the midday sun, which is funny as it was still around 14 degrees.
In the match against the Qatar President's XI, we managed to restrict them to 130 off their 20 overs, with my roommate Deus taking ridiculously good figures of 6 wickets for just 28 runs. Please may I refer you to the interview I gave a few weeks ago where I said Deus was a very impressive player and one to watch in our side. With the bat, the King of Kampala (Roger) came out swinging hard! Unfortunately, he lost his wicket, and it was up to me and Ham in the middle order. I told Ham we needed to take the game deep into the late overs, but we really struggled with the low bounce and slow outfield. The run rate built up and we left ourselves with a lot to do. As the senior man who has been in this position a lot of times, I knew we should have cruised this game. However, as this was my first time batting on a wicket since September, I was happy to get some decent time in the middle and to assess the conditions. I knew this would benefit me as we continued from this tour into the Malaysia tour.
On the last ball, we needed 13 runs to win, with nothing to lose I swung hard. Very hard. So hard that my leg decided to turn 90 degrees, and my knee decided it was too lazy to follow suit and I ended up with a dislocated knee and was slumped on the ground. To literally add insult to injury the ball had dribbled into my pad and I was given out LBW on the last ball of the game.
I was in disbelief that this happened again. Over the last 4 years I have suffered from frequent dislocating shoulders (on both sides), a thumb that has broken three times, and now a knee that has dislocated twice. Why me? How am I this unlucky? Why is my body so fragile? I have put in so much hard work in the gym with hours and hours of prehab, rehab and mobility exercises... How am I the only one with these recurring injuries?! All of these thoughts were going through my head, meanwhile my whole team was surrounding me looking at me staring vacantly into the night sky. The ambulance turned up and I was wheeled off the ground with everyone taking pictures and flashes going off in my face. By far the most embarrassed, exposed and vulnerable I have ever felt. I called the coach over and all I could mutter were the words "I'm sorry for letting you down." It was like I was dying in a world war two movie. I think the emotion of it all took over during the moment.
The team manager (Jackson) and the Qatar manager accompanied me for nearly 5 hours - neither of them made a single complaint. It was really interesting, when I was telling my close friends from England what happened, they would reply with just a text saying 'oh s**t' or something similar. Whereas I was getting phone calls from Uganda, people in Uganda were sending me long messages, and my team mates and coaches were all sending multiple messages of care throughout the night and the morning. This is an example of why I value my relationships with the Ugandans so much.
I have had so many people investing and pushing for me to be part of the Ugandan team for nearly 3 years, and because of injury I am yet to produce a return on these stakeholders' investment. I now know these friends will be asked questions about my lack of performance, and in my pain induced state I found myself continually apologising to them. I found myself in a lonely place that night.
Day 4: Sport can be a lonely place.
After the embarrassment of yesterday I made the awkward walk into breakfast with my leg braced from foot to hip. I looked like Forrest Gump as a kid. My normal joyful (and annoying) self were subdued as I tried to keep my head down so I could avoid eye contact. I felt that everyone had this undertone of disappointment in my performance and my injury. In this situation I just wanted to make as little noise as possible, but now I was having to ask to swap seats on the bus so my splinted leg wouldn't get stuck in the bus door etc.
As most cricketers know, fielding is the most boring part of the game. I never agreed with the people who said "you should enjoy it as it's the thing you do most" - but now I found myself wanting to be out there doing something. As a batter I watch enough of a cricket match, so finding myself side-lined and unable to have any effect on a game after travelling so far has been hard. When the team is fielding you also find yourself on your own with your thoughts that are filled with "what if's". I am no stranger to being injured but this time has got me particularly down as I may need an operation on my knee, which is a grim thought.
On a brighter note, I am watching a 21-year-old debutant slay the Qatari bowlers to all parts with some magical touch play. It is particularly promising to see the younger members of the team listening to criticisms that are touched on within team meetings and making positive change the very next game. This level of adaptability is a promising sign for Ugandan cricket and if we are to step up into the big leagues it will be these skills and mindsets that will keep them there.
We have gone out to bowl and after taking two wickets in the first two overs their main two batsmen put on a big partnership of around 100 and we are now on the back foot. Luckily the King of Kampala (Roger Mukasa) made some great changes with the bowling and fielding which produced the breakthrough. We ended up with an epic win in the last over... so big shout out to the Ugandan character for producing a win from the jaws of defeat.
This great win for the guys was so pleasing to see and it was lovely to see our youngest team member get man of the match on his debut. It was also great to see how much it meant to the coaches as well. They were standing pitch side fidgeting for the last 15 overs. Since I've been with the team, I've seen how passionate, emotional and feisty all stakeholders are. This stems from a genuine care everyone has for each other as everyone truly believes they are family.
I would like to think I'm an upbeat person with resilience in the face of adversity, but I think I needed a bit of an 'arm around the shoulder' treatment today. Fortunately, the manager (Jackson), analyst (Alvin), media man (Innocent), the captain and coach (Steve) have all been excellent and really went out of their way for me. It really means a lot. At the hotel this evening we decided that it is best if I no longer continue being a part of this tour. I will be missing all future tours (pre-Malaysia) in order to recover.