By RON FANFAIR
Canada’s qualification for next year’s World Cup Under-19 cricket finals in New Zealand was overshadowed by news that seven Ugandans, including a former player who traveled with the squad, went missing from the team’s hotel last Saturday night and are presumed to have defected.
The players disappeared sometime after Uganda defeated the Netherlands by two wickets in its final match of the global qualifier at King City. The East African country was not scheduled to play on the final day of the competition last Sunday.
The rest of the squad left Canada on Monday night.
“They have just disappeared,” said Cricket Canada’s interim chief executive officer, Ingleton Liburd. “We filed a report with the police as you normally do when someone is missing for a lengthy period.”
York Regional Police Service Inspector Chris Bullen confirmed they have received a report and have notified Immigration Canada. He also said the players left their travel documents and most of their personal belongings behind.
“We are treating this as a missing persons case since we don’t know where they are,” Bullen said. “We don’t know if foul play is involved and we are asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of the missing individuals to contact us.”
Sierra Leone, the other African country that qualified for the global qualifier, failed to show up in Canada for the tournament after experiencing visa problems arising from concerns that some of their players might not return home at the end of the tournament.
Uganda failed to qualify for the youth World Cup. They along with Hong Kong and The Netherlands finished with a 3-6 record, but Hong Kong advanced because of its superior net run rate.
There is a Ugandan presence in Toronto’s cricket-playing community.
Canadian medium pacer Henry Osinde is among three Ugandan-born cricketers currently playing for Brampton Masters Parkdale Cricket Club in the Toronto & District Cricket Association Elite league. The others are all-rounder Kenneth Kamyuka who is in his second season and middle-order batsman Joel Olwenyi who took part in the International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament for Associates in the Greater Toronto Area nine years ago.
Canada, along with tournament winners Ireland, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, the United States and Hong Kong, will join the ICC’s 10 Test-playing nations in the junior World Cup finals.
The national side ended the tournament on a high note with quality wins over the Americans and Afghanistan. Medium-pacer Arsalam Qadir took 6-44 and skipper Rustum Bhatti and Darius DeSouza scored half-centuries to lead Canada to a three-wicket win over the United States with nine balls to spare last Friday.
On the final day on Sunday, Canada – led by left-handed opener Ruvindu Gunasekera’s unbeaten 57 off 122 balls – toppled Afghanistan by five wickets with 38 balls remaining.
“I am happy with the way we finished,” said coach Wilbert Plummer. “Our batsmen came on towards the end even though I felt they could have been more productive in the tournament. We qualified, which is the important thing, but we would have liked to lift the winner’s trophy on our home turf and celebrate instead of having the Irish do it in front of us.
“We now have to move on and start preparing for New Zealand. This group will form the nucleus, but I have seen a few young players recently in the local leagues who have impressed me and they could be part of the training squad that will be assembled sometime in November.”
National middle-order batsman Usman Limbada was the fifth leading scorer in the tournament with 288 runs (av. 36) and one of seven batsmen to record centuries during the 36-match tournament while left-arm spinner Hiral Patel was the competition’s second leading wicket-taker with 17 (av. 15.58). Qadir took 14 wickets (av. 16.21).
South African-born American all-rounder Ryan Corns was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He scored 230 runs (av. 28.75), took 13 wickets (av. 13.53) and held five catches.
West Indies Cricket Board vice-president Whycliffe (Dave) Cameron watched the last day’s play and presented the awards at the closing night ceremony on Sunday night. He promised that the WICB could consider offering a Caribbean venue to assist the junior team in its preparation for next January’s Under-19 World Cup.
“We have definitely had those discussions with Cricket Canada and in my report back to the board, those are some of my suggestions as to how we can work closer to get the teams better prepared to perform at the world event,” he said.