Daniel Ademiju Idowu
The state of Nigerian Cricket? Nigeria’s sports history may be littered with football, boxing, athletics, and a little of table tennis and basketball
There may be limited or no presence for Cricket but cricket will always be there as one of the first sports Nigerians got exposed to.
By the virtue of the British administrators who were the colonial masters in Nigeria then, Nigerian Cricket was popular in the country and even in schools.
Nigeria’s first international cricket match was in 1904 against Gold Coast now known as Ghana, this was over 40 years before Nigeria’s first international football match.
Unfortunately, despite the presence of Nigeria Cricket games amongst teenagers and students at the few schools scattered across the country then, the Kings College, Government Colleges, Umuahia, and Ibadan, Cricket failed to grow and soccer quickly took over.
Years later, Nigeria can only boast of being an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2002.
However, currently ranked 39th in the world by the ICC, there is a pointer to the development of the game of late and getting to that position required a lot of effort and luck.
In 2018, at the National Sports Festival in Abuja, Cricket made its debut at the national games, consisting of the male and female events albeit 8 states competed. The eight states include Jigawa, Lagos, Kwara, FCT, Ebonyi, Edo, Anambra, and Kaduna.
The same year the country played its first T20 game and also participated in the T20 qualifiers for the first time in 2019.
2019 was quite a rich year for Nigeria in Cricket as the country’s U20 team qualified and participated in the U19 Cricket World Cup in 2020.
Furthermore, the country got a stroke of luck as they played in the qualifiers for the T20 World Cup in 2019.
Zimbabwe was disqualified by the ICC because of government interference in the game in the country and Nigeria duly took their place and featured in the qualifiers in the UAE in October 2019.
While the results were understandably and expectedly underwhelming, it sets a brighter future for a Sport that is on the rise in the country, it also initiated the interest of Nigerians albeit just a few.
People in Nigeria don’t take cricket as a sport, They love football over cricket so we just want to show the world that we have something in cricket and we want to get the world interested,” said fast bowler Taiwo Mohammed before the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.
While Mohammed may be right, the story could change as Nigeria is set for a busy 2021 Cricket-wise and this may garner the interests of more Nigerians especially if the teams perform well.
According to the Cricket calendar released by the International Cricket Council late last year, Nigeria would be hosting Africa’s final qualifying round for the 2022 ICC U19 World Cup in Abuja along with Namibia and Uganda.
It’s a chance to qualify for a second consecutive ICC U19 World Cup for the West African country.
Furthermore, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 is to be hosted in South Africa while the qualifiers set for October 2021 in Botswana will have Nigeria women’s team vie with Botswana, Cameroon, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe for a spot.
However, considerable action has been taken by the Nigerian Cricket Federation to take advantage of the success at the youth level and translate it to the senior national team.
Thus, the NCF appointed Sri Lankan Cricket legend Asanka Gurusinha as the national team coach.
Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare also spoke of the essence of the appointment as a pointer to the need to raise the standard of the game in the West African country.
The appointment of Asanka marks another milestone in this administration’s desire to raise the standard of the game in the country both at the elite and development level,” Dare said.
It can’t get any better than the Minister of Sports getting interested in the development of a particular Sport but the case of Nigerian cricket; it can only get better in fact it keeps getting better.