Frank Nsubuga: Meet the oldest player at the World T20

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Frank Nsubuga was 16 when he appeared at the 1997 ICC Champions Trophy and almost three decades on, he will finally fulfil his dream of featuring at an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

Now 43, the Ugandan off-spinner is set to be the oldest player to feature over the next month as part of a Cricket Cranes squad dining at cricket’s top table for the first time.

It seemed unthinkable just five years ago, when they were relegated to Division Four of the World Cricket League, but coach Lawrence Mahatlane and his successor Craig Williams inspired a revolution which culminated in qualification from the Africa Qualifier in November last year.

Uganda pipped Zimbabwe to second spot to qualify alongside Namibia, having beaten the Chevrons in the group stage, leading to jubilant dancing celebrations on the field as the players etched their names into folklore.

And having had a front-row seat to the changes in Ugandan cricket spanning a generation, Nsubuga is still pinching himself at the prospect of coming up against the game’s stars in the USA and Caribbean.

“To qualify for this World Cup was a shock,” he said. “After beating Zimbabwe, we couldn’t wait to play again. The boys are so excited and waiting to see what the experience will hold.

“I have been trying for this for the last 27 years. I have been waiting for my dream to come true and now it has.

“I am 43 now, 44 in August, so it is amazing for me. I cannot wait for my first game at the World Cup.

“Everyone at home was so excited to see us qualify, we are the first Ugandan men’s team to do so, and everyone wants to know when we will be playing so they can watch.

“People are eagerly awaiting the start, they will be tuning in.”

Nsubuga and his teammates may be making history but they are determined to ensure this is no one-off as they look to inspire a generation.

“At the moment, cricket in Uganda is not so big,” he said.

“We are trying to take the game deep into the villages and it is going well, we have some promising cricketers for the future.

“So many things have changed in my time. We used to play on astroturf wickets but now we have four grass wickets, which is very good for us as it was hard to switch between them for training and playing.

“We also now have a more semi-professional set-up, which is very good for Ugandan cricket.

“We train for almost the whole day, and we have contracts so we can take something home to our families.”

Nsubuga was introduced to the game through his father’s work at the Lugogo Cricket Oval in Kampala, while his mother would cook lunches for the various sports clubs based in the area.

He credits Samuel Walusimbi, who played in the 1975 Cricket World Cup for East Africa, with ultimately inspiring a love of the game which was not immediately apparent.

“I played hockey, badminton, table tennis, volleyball, I was very good at tennis, I was playing handball, and I also love soccer,” he said.

“I learned cricket last because I used to fear the cricket ball. We started with a tennis ball and the coaches there helped me a lot.

“My brothers played, one of them (Roger Mukasa) still plays with me in the national team, and our coach used to tell our dad to give us four samosas and two sodas every day when he saw us on the cricket field. That kept us playing!”

Cricket will soon lose a 40-something icon when England legend James Anderson retires this summer but Nsubuga, two years the seamer’s elder, shows no sign of slowing down.

A magnificent diving catch against Kenya went viral two years ago and with Uganda preparing to take on the likes of West Indies and New Zealand in Group C, Nsubuga is hoping to cause problems for some of his younger opponents, many of whom would not have been born when he made his bow at an international tournament.

“I feel so proud to still be playing at 43,” he said. “I am still strong and I am very grateful for that.

I have a routine. I wake up very early in the morning, around 6am, and I jog around 7-8km. After that, I come to the club and train.

“I can’t wait to bowl at Andre Russell and Kane Williamson is also an amazing batsman. If I could take his wicket, I’ll be the happiest man in the world.” (ICC)

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