Cricket team eyes glory in Rwanda

Hard at work: The women's cricket team going through the paces
Hard at work: The women's cricket team going through the paces

The women’s cricket team yesterday flew off to Kigali, Rwanda for a debut appearance at the annual Kwibuka tournament, which runs from June 6 to 12, 2021.

The local team will gauges its strength against the continental counterparts in the six nations T20 tournament that is sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The results will have a bearing on the ICC rankings.

 The Botswana team faces the hosts Rwanda and Uganda in Group A. In Group B there is Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria.

Coach, Innocent Chando said the girls intend to bring the trophy home.

“The preparations went well. We started our team sessions in March and the girls worked hard on all the aspects of the game, that is, batting, bowling, fielding and fitness. We also had intra-practice games, which helped us to rate the player’s readiness and also to select the final squad,” Chando said. “Our main goal is to win the tournament and also improve our ICC women’s T20 rankings,” he added.

Chando has picked an all-round team against opponents that they have rarely played against at the senior level.

“We long played against Rwanda and Uganda that was when we were still Under-19. We can’t predict the status of the pitches we are going to play on because it’s our first time touring  Rwanda,” he said. Chando expects the senior players, captain Laura Mophakedi, Florence Samanyika, Shameelah Mosweu to step up, while there is support from youngsters such as Tuelo Shadrack and Onneile Keitsemang. 

Captain Mophakedi said the team is in good shape after months in camp.

“We have been preparing consistently for three months now. We have been working on our fitness, both physically and mentally. We are also trying to incorporate young players. Due to inactivity caused by COVID-19, we have lost some senior players. We are trying to build the youngsters’ confidence to prepare them for international competitions,” Mophakedi said yesterday. She said they were not familiar with their opponents but would go out to give their best.

“We are not familiar with our opponents, last time we played against them, we were in Under-19s. We are trying to perfect our skills,” she said. The skipper believes bowling is their strongest point but said batting is also coming up, as Botswana prepares to host the ICC T20 qualifiers in September.

“We will try and implement new strategies to see what can work for us so that we can be ready when the September tournament comes. We hope to make it to the semi-finals at least (in Rwanda),” Mophakedi said. The top two teams from each group progress to the final while the second-placed sides will fight it out in the third-place play-off. Botswana will kick off the tournament with a morning game against Rwanda on Sunday, before playing Uganda on Monday.

The teams will then face off in the second round of the fixtures, with Botswana playing Rwanda on June 9, before facing off against Uganda the following day.

The tournament was originally a five-team affair, involving Rwanda, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Nigeria, but Kenya this week announced they would join the competition. Defending champions Tanzania, who won the tournament in 2019, will not take part this year. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. This will be the seventh edition of the Kwibuka tournament, which is held annually in remembrance of the 1994 genocide victims.

Rwanda is reportedly keen to enhance the reputation of the tournament by including full ICC member, Zimbabwe and sides from Europe and South America.

The Botswana squad:

Laura Mophakedi (captain), Florence Samanyika (vice captain), Tebagano Ditshotlo, Botho Freeman, Onneile Keitsemang, Jacqueline Kgang, Bontle Madimabe, Precious Modimo,Thapelo Modise, Amantle Mokgotlhe, Collin Mokibelo, Shameelah Mosweu, Tebogo Motlhabaphuti, Botsogo Mpedi, Tuelo Shadrack.

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