TALES OF A UGANDAN CRICKET FAN: Let the mind games begin!

Nothing is easy in cricket. Maybe when you watch it on TV, it looks easy. But it is not. You have to use your brain and time the ball.

-          Rohit Sharma

Until about two months ago, I had never given much thought to cricket as a whole, except for the sheer passion of it. But with each passing match, my mind is beginning to accept one thing – cricket is a brain game. You don’t just need to perfect stance, the right muscle strength or even that unique wrist spin. You need to know what shot you will or won’t play, where you will hit it, the kind of ground you are on, perception, reading the mood…among other things. These are just some of the things I got to witness first hand last week.

After a thrilling match between the KICC and Challengers CC, I set my sights on the Strikers CC and Premier CC. Both teams are fighting to keep their spots in the Division 1 table so I thought it prudent to see them battle it out up close – I was not disappointed!

By the time I arrived at Lugogo, the match was already 18 overs in with Strikers fielding. The Premier batsmen had put up a sizeable 130 runs for the loss of just two wickets. Settling in quickly with no lone stranger to update this time round, I turned to the ever faithful UgCricket website, who did not disappoint with their live score updates (thank you!) Like I mentioned before, this game totally renewed my mind on how the brain works in respect to a cricket game.

The pitch.  I noticed the Lugogo outfield seems to be a slow and sluggish, at least compared to the Kyambogo outfield. At the latter, boundaries were easier to come by, but at Lugogo, a shot, despite the ferocity with which it has being hit, could only go far enough to allow the batsmen scamper a single (or two, if the fielder fumbled). It was then that I noticed the next thing…

Batting strategy. Strikers who batted first, used a pretty interesting technique, one I am yet to fully figure out. Both teams fielded relatively young sides but it was Strikers who took the better of the chances with their youthfulness. I noticed they went around this issue by taking advantage of the far placed Premier fielders; playing their shots within the 30-yard mark, thus using their incredible speed to steal quick singles! I am pretty sure majority of the 267 runs put up were because of these speedily made singles, doubles and byes.

The Premier batsmen on the other hand had a lot more batting strength and therefore opted to play as many boundary shots as possible, saving them from expending their energy against the more agile opponents. One of their memorable shots was a high flying sixer towards long on, that went over the fence and out of the oval!

Fielding. I discovered another vital aspect at play here. In the second innings when the Premier batsmen took to the bat, their explosive shots showed intent. Strikers strategically placed their fielders in positions that closed out the gaps Premier looked to exploit except for the more ‘energized’ balls that went for the ropes (or above it), of course. The way they freely gave themselves, long barriers, dives and all was rather incredible. And that speed…my goodness these men (or should I say boys?) were fast!

I honestly loved Strikers fielding. Their lightning fast reflexes and incredible speed had me glued to the match. Another highlight was the calls between the batsmen. Very audible and accurate enough that at least run outs were hardly possible here!

Bowling and rapid overs. The second innings went by so fast that Premier were all out in just a little over two hours. Everything was just chap-chap! I was particularly impressed by the Strikers (no bias, here). I got to see the power of a yorker too! They say, persistence breaks resistance, and the Premier batsman (despite a great boundary shot to fine leg) was struck out as the next legal delivery brought the desired result – a long awaited catch!

Strikers CC who won the match (by 107 runs) are at least safe for now, but for Premier CC who lost, are unfortunately battling to keep from relegation.  On the whole, it made for an entertaining match with a lot to learn. I realized how much of a mind game cricket is. You need to know how your opponents play, realize your Achilles’ heel and find a way around it. I am glad I had the opportunity to see these two play and I am keenly looking forward to watching more matches, with my new mindset. Of course, from the sidelines (and TV), cricket looks easy but it’s definitely a whole new ball game out on the field.

While you are here, have you had a chance to check out @CricketUganda and @UgCricket on Facebook and Twitter? Look out for full reviews, match fixtures, profiling and news on anything and everything cricket. You will be all the better for it!


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