Last year it was unanimously agreed that Nigeria had a 50-50 chance of picking an ICC T20 Cricket World Cup ticket at the African qualifiers in Kigali, Rwanda in November, not thanks to it being behind its back. group opponents Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania stood. Nigeria followed in 38th place in the world ranking, after all Uganda (27th), Kenya (29th) and Tanzania (37th). Nevertheless, the Yellow-Greens, as the team is known, were more likely to pick the ticket based on the player’s current form and motivation from the extensive 5-1 defeat they inflicted on Sierra Leone during the Bilateral Series held in Lagos prior to the Kigali qualifiers.
Without a doubt, however, the Yellow-Greens have evolved since December 2020, thanks in large part to the coaching abilities of Sri Lankan Asanka Gurusinha who took charge of the team when it needed positive leadership, immediately leading to long camping before the matches . Gurusinha had no problem with the bowling aspect of the cricketers, Nigeria is a renowned bowling country. So he decided to work on the batting aspect with commendable results to build players’ confidence for competitions he thought were needed to get the team ready for challenges. There was improvement in the Uganda series that preceded the Lagos series. But the future started to unfold in the Lagos series as the Kigali qualifiers loomed.
Ultimately, the Kigali event was a fiasco for Nigeria, a reality not lost on the Sri Lankan who struggled with his team being dominated by youngsters competing in the 2019 U-19 World Cup, apart from just a trickle of experienced players of the old order.
Uyi Akpata, president of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, came to grips with the fiasco and he was unequivocal that the Yellow-Greens had not been exposed enough ahead of the qualifiers, and no wonder it lost all six matches despite the players’ best efforts. Akpata was quick to declare that his administration would ensure that the players compete with top African countries with a view to leveraging the best talent on offer. He made no excuse for the fiasco; all he wanted was a positive move forward.
Perhaps it is in furtherance of Akpata’s wish that 30 young players were discovered during the National Youth Games held in Ilorin in November and that Gurusinha prepared an intensive camping program for them as part of the cricket federations development plan.
Under-17 cricket is already active in the six zones of the country, with scouts fishing for more talent and with the ultimate goal of literally turning Nigeria into a pool of cricketers in the coming years. Nigeria’s largest cricket league, the Club Cricket Committee League is also active and can be admired by fans and enthusiasts alike. It is an undeniable fact that cricket in Nigeria is witnessing a new dawn.
Further evidence of the 2022 boom was unveiled in Lagos on Sunday as the redesigned TBS Cricket Oval went into service. Considered the traditional home of Nigerian cricket, the TBS oval had seen no action for 18 months as the playing surface had to be upgraded from concrete to grass. The field has held fond memories of Nigeria’s cricketing exploits for many years and not a few now believe the upgrade is as timely as it is promising for the development of the sport in the country. It holds even greater promise that all elite division matches will be played on the grass wickets.
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