The Kigali T20 cricket blues and the way forward


Nigeria’s senior cricket team, the Yellow Greens, offered credible hope ahead of the recent qualifying for the T20 World Cup in Kigali, Rwanda. The team had promised a few months ago during a Ugandan series, signaling a new start after previous uncertainties. But a bigger promise came after the six-game streak with Sierra Leone staged in Lagos in late October when the Nigerians swept their guests 5-1. Even though the Ugandan, Kenyan and Tanzanian hurdles awaited the Yellow Greens in Kigali, the hope of a remarkable performance still permeated the Nigerian camp.

In the competition, however, reality lurked. It soon became clear that insufficient exposure would deal devastating blows to the Yellow Greens. The team had faced Sierra Leone, a much smaller opponent in the standings, in a six-game build that wasn’t enough to withstand the rigors of Kigali which saw a more experienced Uganda pick the only World Cup ticket. T20 proposed. Despite having the veteran duo of Ademola Onikoyi and Segun Olayinka who have been with the squad since the mid-2000s, the Nigerians still fell short of the trio Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, who have all packed extremely experienced players into their teams. The gulf between Nigeria and the rest was too obvious for comfort. Even the formidable fan base that saw the Yellow Greens attract the most spectators to their games couldn’t save them from an all-out defeat which, interestingly, became quite a learning curve. It must be said that the injury dealt a blow to Nigeria’s ambition in Kigali after knee and ankle issues ruled out fast pitcher Rasheed Abolarin from the tour. But it turned out to be a major lesson for the technical team as they consider future big competitions.

Nigeria Cricket Federation President Uyi Akpata did not particularly see the Kigali debacle coming. He probably relied on what double courage and confidence could do for Nigerian representatives who had already seen their releases before T20. Yet Akpata was the first to accept the debacle in the wake as expected of a responsible leader. He already listed cricketers’ exposure and building the next generation among his cardinal tenets when he took office as NCF president in September. So as far as he’s concerned, he has his work cut out for him.

Interestingly, Kigali’s qualifying brought good news for Nigeria, with a few things that can be tapped into for the future. Specifically, the hitting aspect of cricket which has long been an albatross is gradually being overcome as batmen have demonstrated. All they need to move forward is consistency in subsequent matches and the bogey would become history.

In addition, unlike previous outings where only the coach and team manager led the players, the combination of technical coach, team manager, physical trainer, physiotherapist and analyst for the Yellow Greens to Kigali marked a new start for great things in the near future. .

It has also emerged in Kigali that the Nigerian squad is drawing crowds, apparently following the national Under-19 team’s performance at the 2019 World Cup in South Africa. With a competitive edge in future games, more crowds would be drawn, knowing that gamers have more to give beyond entertainment.

Just as coaches have to put aside the usual selection of one-size-fits-all squads that allow them to see players of a day equally good for the playoffs – which has so far proven to be counterproductive – the federation should also acquire the services of a psychotherapist to complement the work of this trainer in the future.

It is equally heartwarming that the building of the future has truly begun. Edo Cricket League kicked off on November 27 at the grass wicket in Benin City with some of the national team players listed for action in the 10-week game. Other states would soon follow suit in what is expected to be improved cricket activity across the country. In the words of NCF boss Akpata: “This is the result of the growth that cricket has experienced in recent times. “

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