Cricket may not be Swetal Desai’s first love, but his affection for Uganda’s cricketers is unmatchable.
For the third successive year, Desai has successfully hosted the Uganda national team at his Sanjay Farms here. Desai and his team of sponsors not only arrange quality opposition, they also bear the cost of the contingent’s lodging and boarding.
Desai, a social worker and owner of Sanjay Farms, “fell in love” with Uganda cricket in 2013 when a player from the African country played in the Navsari Premier League, a local T20 tournament. “He was athletic and had good pace. Then in 2017, two players played in Hyderabad. I then got a call from Jackson Kavuma [national team manager] who was enquiring about his boys. I just told him that I would like to host their national team at my ground. The Uganda Cricket Association [UCA] chairman Bashir Badu Ansasiira could not believe my proposal. I told them to bear the airfare and leave the rest to me,” recalls Desai.
Apart from Desai, the Indian Association of Uganda contributed five million shillings (approximately R98,000) for their trip to India this time.
Uganda, who became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) in 1998, get approximately USD 600,000 for their cricket development.
Desai realised that Uganda’s need of the hour was exposure. UCA chief executive Martin Ondeko reveals that before their partnership with Sanjay Farms, Uganda would play just six matches in a year. “When we first came here in 2018, we played around six to eight quality games. The impact was immediate. In April that year, we won our first ICC tournament—Div IV in Malaysia,” says Ondeko.
Desai mixes cricket with sightseeing and spirituality to provide a holistic experience for the Ugandan cricketers.
Ondeko is seeking similar support to that of the Indian cricket board providing to Afghanistan, whom Uganda beat at Argentina in 2009. “We are seeking similar help from experienced cricketing nations. We are looking at more partnerships [like Sanjay Farms]. We want to play around 30 matches a year but we don’t have more avenues due to financial difficulties,” says Ondeko.