CRICKET is arguably the fastest growing sport in Rwanda, with – as of today; 24 cricket clubs and 98 schools that play the game across the country.
It is estimated that around 15,000 people regularly play cricket, with 40 per cent of them female.
The country also boasts two Guinness World Record holders; Eric Dusingizimana and Cathia Uwamahoro, for the longest batting net session, having batted for straight 51 hours and 26 hours, respectively.
Uwera (R), seen here with Nigeria women cricket team skipper Samantha Agazuma on Tuesday, is Rwanda’s national team captain since January this year.
The relatively young sport – only introduced in Rwanda in the late 1990’s – is yet to gain as much popularity as of the country’s most popular game, football, or even cycling, basketball and volleyball.
But, since earning the International Cricket Council (ICC) membership in 2003, the sport has made great strides, including the completion of the Gahanga International Cricket Stadium in 2017.
The country may be yet to produce a cricketer in world’s professional ranks, but the future of cricket in Rwanda looks bright and enthusiasm around the sport grows by the day.
This week, Saturday Sport’s Jejje Muhinde had a one-on-one with Sarah Uwera, captain of the women national cricket team and currently one of the finest cricketers in Rwanda.
As the team skipper, Uwera is not only one of the finest and most experienced cricket players in women cricket, but also has a great wealth of leadership.
Prior to landing her first cap in the senior team, she also captained the Under-19 national team and, at club level, the now-defunct She-Guards in the national league.
She plays as wicket-keeper and batswoman both for Oasis Club and the national team team. At the same time, she also is a celebrated scorer.
Uwera is a key wicket-keeper and batter for the national cricket team and Oasis Club in the national league.
Born in January 1996, in Kicukiro District, she is from a family of eight – six girls and two boys. After devoting the last five years to cricket, Uwera says she is considering to enroll to university and play cricket during free time and weekends.
She completed her second school studies in 2014, in electronics and telecommunications majors, at ADB Nyarutarama.
According to her father, Viateur Nzeyimana, Uwera started showing a keen interest in cricket in early 2012 and she could miss most of the family events, which was first a great concern.
“She was convinced cricket is what she wanted to do, it was hard to stop her,” says Nzeyimana. “So we decided to support and even attended some of her training sessions and matches. She’s turned all of us into cricket fans at home.”
However, Uwera confesses that cricket was not her first love. The 23-year-old wanted to be a footballer, but with cricket being new almost to everyone in the country, she thought she stood a better chance in the sport.
Since her childhood, she loved and played football. She regularly trained and represented her schools in youth competitions.
Then the year 2012 came when the local cricket body introduced the sport to her school. There and then, she was fascinated by the new game and never went back to football.
Less than a year later, Uwera received her first cap in the U-19 national team, which she would go on to captain before being promoted to the senior team.
“I like to call myself an accidental cricketer. I still don’t get how I moved from football to cricket, but I have also never regretted the switch. It is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life,” Uwera told this publication on Thursday.
Only this year, she has captained the national team in two bilateral T20 series against Nigeria, the Women’s T20 World Cup qualifiers and the Genocide Memorial Cricket Tournament.
By press time Friday, Rwanda led Nigeria 2-1 at Gahanga Cricket Stadium in the return-leg of the bilateral five-match series between the two countries. The first-leg was held earlier this year in Abuja, Nigeria, and the latter ran 3-2 winners.
In a separate interview, national team coach Joshua Mwanja said that Uwera is ‘highly respected’ by her teammates because of her ability to motivate and calm situations down.
Uwera, she says, looks up to England international Sarah Taylor, a sentiment that was largely influenced that the fact that she is also a wicket-keeper and batter.
In world cricket, Taylor is well-known for her crafty batting and exceptional wicket-keeping skills, also known as a free-flowing stroke play.