Even the hardnosed critics believe this is a new dawn for local cricket. Not because Mehta Group are the first-ever company to offer Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) such a sponsorship deal.
Just a couple of years ago, Uganda was a Division II International Cricket Council (ICC) Associate nation and was receiving more than Shs730m. That money was earned because of the team’s progressive displays. But off the Oval, officials pushed the self-destruct button and everything went up in the smoke. Their continued wrangling reached the extent of attracting ICC’s interest and a nation on the rise turned into a struggling one.
As the war, fueled by fighting for ICC money turned ugly with court summons, the team was forgotten and its performances made for obituary writing in every media.
Cricket, which was at par with Uganda Rugby Union (URU), became a perfect case study for how money can disrupt progress in sport. And yet without money, it increasingly became hard for UCA to facilitate its ambitious programmes.
But a new youthful executive led by former national top-order batsman Richard Mwami, put into power at the beginning of this year, looks like the crop that will get the game out of its slough. For the first time in as many years, Multiple Industries is on board as the National League sponsor with Pepsi injecting as much in post-primary schools.
On Tuesday, UCA’s flirting with the Mehta Group bore fruit when the multi-industry company agreed to a more than Shs200m one-year deal, which, if not abused, will change the face of cricket in Uganda forever.
Jay Mehta, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), made it clear that the deal was not result-based. “We are hoping the teams do well,” said the Mehta Group Director. “But we are not going to put you under pressure. At KKR, we have learned our lessons.
We were even last in the second IPL but we won the fifth edition this year. We will be patient but we want UCA to make the game popular countrywide.”
Mehta Group are certainly the right sponsor for an association trying to pick up the pieces. UCA must keep the faith because second chances don’t come too often.
By INNOCENT NDAWULA, Daily Monitor