The Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) will focus on creating much-needed infrastructure around the country to popularise the sport and facilitate the uptake of cricket nationwide NCF vice-president Uyi Akpata has told busybuddiesng.com.
Akpata, who also heads the Edo State Cricket board said with the NCF having established stability in the running of its affairs, the next step will see the NCF establish quality cricket facilities around the country as well as institute a process that will see cricket rival football as the country’s most popular sport by ensuring two hundred thousand young people take up cricket on an annual basis.
He said the NCF intends to establish four new Cricket Ovals in Abuja, Ibadan, Benin and at the TBS Oval in Lagos which would also serve as high-performance centres.
“Our focus in 2020 will be around the area of facilities development,” Akpata told busybuddiesng.com.
“We want to have more turf wickets, by God’s grace, four will come on board, second one in Abuja, one in Ibadan, one in Benin, then, of course, the traditional home of cricket, the oval here [Tafawa Balewa Cricket Oval] and in each of those places we’re going to make them a high-performance camp, where we’ll have a regional development officer working with teams on a regular basis, in terms of development, playing time, a lot of activities.
“Then more importantly, on an annual basis, we’re trying to introduce almost two hundred thousand kids to the game of cricket, so that next to football, we’re going to see that cricket is going to be the most sought after sport in the country,” he said.
The past year recorded many successes for cricket in Nigeria. There was the bilateral match for the women’s national team that saw them play a first-ever international match when they took on Rwanda in Abuja and Kigali.
The ICC Cricket World Cup visited the country for the first time and the men’s national participated in their first-ever global event when they were selected to replace Zimbabwe in the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers in the UAE.
The greatest strides, however, were recorded in youth cricket with the U19 national team emerging unbeaten through two African qualifying tournaments to secure a place at the 2020 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa becoming in the process, Nigeria’s first cricket team to qualify for a global event.
These achievements by the NCF board have not gone unnoticed by cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council which supports the NCF with about $1million in annual grants and hopes to see a structure that ensures the progress achieved so far can be sustained and replicated.
And Akpata says the ICC is eager to partner with the NCF to ensure the development of the sport throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria.
“We’re just really excited that we’ve managed to create some kind of stability. Stability especially in the area of governance, and robust financial control, things that make your partners to trust you,” Akpata told busybuddiesng.com.
“It’s against that background that ICC is really excited that in Nigeria, a country that has over a hundred million population, young talents, they can only partner with us to see how they can develop the game, and take it to the nooks and crannies of this country.”