Racheal Ntono (born 7 July 1997) plays for Uganda Women’s national cricket team. In July 2018, she was named in Uganda’s squad for the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier tournament. She made her Women’s Twenty20 International (WT20I) for Uganda against Scotland in the World Twenty20 Qualifier on 7 July 2018. In April 2019, she was named in Uganda’s squad for the 2019 ICC Women’s Qualifier Africa tournament in Zimbabwe.
In a chat with Female Cricket, Racheal talks about her cricket journey, her unusual beginning with the sport, the everyday challenges and the rise of Uganda Women’s cricket team at an international level.
1) Tell us something about your initial days and how you were introduced to cricket?
My initial days of playing cricket started back in 2011 when I was in high school, the Cricket Without Boundaries organization had paid a visit to our school to educate us about eradicating AIDS out of Uganda using the game of cricket, of course like any other bored teen in a class of biology I decide to go for the training asking my friends to tag along as a way of escaping the boredom. After the organization left the school, the coach came back looking for us in class to go back and play the game saying all his school team players had finished high school, that’s how I hesitantly went back to try it out.
After a few weeks of training coach told us we were going to compete in a school tournament, our team wasn’t ready at all I mean the only thing we knew about the hard ball game was the front foot defensive. Well, we lost that tournament but we swore never to loose again to any school. So that’s how we started the real hard training and since that year our school (Jinja Senior secondary school ) took 5 titles consecutively.
In 2012, I was called on the U19 and played on it till I was above 19 years but it was saddening we didn’t have a girl’s U19 world cup though those tournaments groomed us for the national team. That very year I was called on the training squad but I never made it on the team but I was grateful and happy for the experience. Later in 2013, I made it on the team and I have been playing up until now.
2) Were you always into sports? What drew you to cricket in particular?
I was terrible at sports, I tried all sorts (volleyball, netball, running, football) but failed to connect or fit in any.
What drew me to cricket, in particular, was the fact that I was doing it with my friends everything seemed fun with friends around. But the winner was the tales coach used to tell us about the Women’s World cup and the fact that I was schooling for free on a school scholarship.
3) How was the Women’s World T20 Qualifier experience? What did you take forward from it?
The women’s world T20 qualifier was the best experience I ever got. It was like a dream come true or reaching the promised land. Ever since I started playing our dream was to play in the world cup and that tournament was like a stepping stone or a step away from realizing the dream, hence the experience we got made us realize our rights and wrongs plus counter check with our cricket and what’s needed for us to reach/realize our dream.
4) How do you think the Uganda Cricket Association has improved over the years?
Uganda Cricket Association has improved over the years in a way that now you can find cricket in each and every district in Uganda and most of the schools too, and the fact that our team can come up and compete and win too in a tournament is a good sign too it shows that they are using all they have to improve cricket nationwide.
Before, you would go and ask someone do you know cricket? And they would be like “whats cricket !” but that has changed now at least though we still need to improve.
5) In what aspects can the UCA further improve?
I think UCA can further improve: One – if they try and organize more tournaments with other teams from different countries because the local league itself is not enough, we need to play lots of games in order to stay on form. And fully get used to the momentum of playing back to back games.
The long breaks we have after tournaments seem to affect our playing, so they need to reduce on those. The facilities to players needs to be improved too because most people are forced to divide their time, attention and effort between cricket and a school profession, we cant play cricket as a profession if the facilitation is poor and there’s no way I will play the same cricket as someone playing the game as a profession.
They should also try and connect our good players to clubs or teams outside/abroad so that they are exposed and get experience too.
6) Which ICC Associate member countries in your opinion have the potential to become full members?
Well, I think in Africa, Namibia seems promising plus they have been playing good cricket both the women and men.
7) How has the experience playing with the fellow Lady Cranes teammates been? Who do you bond with the most?
My team has been the best I could ever ask for its a family of a kind like we have the most talented, beautiful, kind and funny people I know and each one of them is a star in making if given the best training they will take Uganda places.
About the bonding, I am lucky I play with my two best friends beside me and my number one fans too. They have always got my back so they will be the first I bond with.
8) How do you think women’s cricket can be further promoted in Uganda?
Women’s cricket can further be improved through playing more with other countries not only the ones in Africa so as to learn from others. Then find a way to keep the players active in the game throughout the year.
Maybe exchange players and coaches with different countries for training camps or even tournaments so as to create friendships and alliances which help both sides gain skills from each other.
9) What has been your best cricketing memory so far?
My best memory was the qualification for the Women’s World T20 qualifier in 2017.
10) What efforts do you think ICC can take to promote cricket in African nations?
The efforts ICC can take to promote the game in African countries should start with at least allowing two teams to qualify for the women’s T20 qualifier. Its so unfair to have over 10 teams competing for one spot, it’s discouraging.
Then we need more tournaments among ourselves, one after two years is not enough. They should try and organize training camps for players from all over Africa to come together for a period of time and learn from different coaches and management.
11) What is your ultimate goal, career-wise?
My ultimate or career-wise goal is to be a better bats lady who can take her team to the world cup, if my team can go that far then I would be the happiest.
12) What do you think about our initiative – Female Cricket? Your suggestions are valuable.
I think your initiative to reach out and promote female cricket is great and encouraging to most of us because it helps us keep updated with most of our female role models and other players out there.
Then I would like to suggest that you keep posting about the tournaments, game results happening around the world for those who cant follow the games from anywhere else.