A critical look, though, proves cricket has yet to win the hearts of the majority of the region’s sports lovers as the sport still struggles to attract fans in matches. The desire by cricket followers to make the most of the opportunity to develop the sport, nevertheless, has been second to none as compared to other sports disciplines.
The region’s cricket governing body, Arusha Regional Cricket Committee (AR CC) has, for the past few years, been diligently organizing annual competitions at the two venues and the participating teams’ enthusiasm, together with that of the rest of the game’s followers, has indeed made the body’s task worthwhile.
And, when AR CC organized the Tigo Trophy tournament from early last month to a couple of weeks ago, Arusha cricket lovers’ enthusiasm reigned supreme to give the event, which was played in a Twenty20 format, a truly colourful outlook. ARCC joined forces with the mobile phone service providing firm, Tigo, to make the tournament a success and the two parties’ efforts looked to have made encouraging strides in realizing the desired plan, which is all but effective promotion and development of the sport in the region.
A total of ten clubs engaged in the battle for supremacy in this year’s tournament, in which they were grouped into A and B and got down to a series of intriguing duels to secure better performers that could progress to the latter stages. The clubs include A To Z, Annadil Ezzi SC, Arusha TCA Development, Kilimeru SC and Lion Kings XI while group B had AMMA SC, Expatriates SC, Swamibapa SC, Telugu Vaani SC and the tournament’s defending champions, Wanderers SC.
While the nine other clubs are regular competitors in the region’s tournaments, Arusha TCA Development was making its debut appearance in competitive cricket and its presence marked an interesting progress in the promotion of the sport. Arusha TCA Development comprised youngsters that are groomed in the AR CC junior development programme, which is supervised by TCA official Paul Manyanda, and their participation was meant to give them experience.
After a series of nerve-wracking encounters, the top two teams from either of the groups qualified for the semi-finals, in which A To Z and Annadil Ezzi SC topped group A to ease into the last eight’s stage as Expatriates SC and Wanderers SC were the group B semi-finalists. There were equally exciting matches in the semi-finals as group A leaders, A To Z, were paired against group B runners-up, Expatriates SC, while Wanderers SC, who finished top in group B, clashed with group A runners-up, Annadil Ezzi.
The semi-finals turned out to be closely contested duels that eventually saw experienced competitors, Expatriates SC and Wanderers SC, get the better of their opponents to set up a mouthwatering final at the TGT venue. The manner in which Expatriates SC and Wanderers SC grabbed their tickets to the final was a strong proof to the increasing level of competitiveness in Arusha’s top flight cricket because the duo were forced to deploy all skills at their disposal to overcome their determined opponents.
The final, ultimately, turned into the battleground for familiar archrivals, Expatriates SC and Wanderers SC, with the latter eventually prevailing in the gripping duel by securing a 57-run win and defend the trophy. The winners’ score sheet might suggest they had an easy ride in the final but the actual performance on the pitch proved the opposite, as Expatriates SC stunned the former with a never-say-die attitude that helped to set up a truly exciting affair.
After Expatriates SC had won the toss and put their opponents in to bat first, the latter never wasted time in posting a convincing total of 184 runs for five wickets in the allotted 20 overs, before Expatriates mounted a thrilling chase only to falter with 127 runs all out in 16 overs on the board. A man of the match performance by Wanderers’ skipper, Chris Lello (83 runs and 3-22), together with equally solid batting displays by Wayne Nupen (unbeaten 38 runs) and Mike Becknor (31 runs) steered the side to the triumph.
Expatriates SC might have not been quite up to scratch in batting but the team had encouraging innings by top order batsmen, Bandranayak (49 runs) and Mahmood Ahmad (23 runs) to feel proud of in the chase, which failed to reach fruition because of the batting collapse by the middle and low order.
A delighted Lello, in the end, was full of praise for his side’s opponents, saying the latter’s resilience at some point turned the match into a quite competitive affair. “The match was quite competitive and was played in good pace. Our team’s performance was all round…everybody scored runs and everybody got wickets”, he said. To him, Wanderers’ fielding superiority made the difference in the final, in which the team went for tight fielding while the bowlers mercilessly pounced on Expatriates SC batsmen.
“Our side’s strength is in fielding…our fielding is very good, we concede very few wides and we take wickets. The reason why we win games is our fielding”, he noted. Lello was quick to point out that Expatriates SC’s decision to change the bowling tactic midway through Wanderers’ innings troubled the latter a lot and could have even limited the defending champions to a manageable total.
“The opponents know us very well and their (bowling) strategy was good. Their spin bowling was good…it was difficult to score runs from their spinners”, he said. For Expatriates SC, losing in the final was largely down to carelessness in fielding at some point but unfair umpiring also had a share in the team’s defeat. “Batting wise, we were good because we scored 127 runs in the chase but in fielding, we had some weaknesses because we dropped some catches”, said the team’s skipper, Shailendar Patiyal, adding that his side felt umpiring in the match was not better because the team’s three batsmen were unfairly dismissed on different occasions.
Both Expatriates SC and Wanderers SC lauded the contribution of the tournament sponsors, Tigo, saying the sponsorship went a long way in inspiring competitiveness and excitement in the event. “The tournament was mostly competitive and well organized. We could not have done anything without the sponsorship”, said Lello. Attracting more participation of domestic youngsters in the tournament in the next two to three years was Lello’s biggest expectation in his assessment of the future of the event and Arusha cricket in general. “We have to do our best in promoting cricket.
I think we have to get more development players into these teams and in the league”, he said. While AR CC and the rest of cricket followers in Arusha might have hardly achieved a fraction of the desired success in the sport’s promotion, the successful organization of this year’s Tigo Trophy tournament has, at least, given them hope on realizing tremendous achievements in the next few years.