Exclusive: Nigeria’s U19 Cricket Team To Train In South Africa And Zimbabwe Ahead of 2020 ICC U19 World Cup

Nigeria’s U19 men’s national cricket team will travel to South Africa in the coming days where they are expected to spend two weeks training at the South African National Academy in Pretoria before embarking on a pre-World Cup tour of Zimbabwe as part of preparations for the 2020 U19 ICC World Cup in South Africa.

Namibia has also been proposed as a fall back option if the team’s planned tour of Zimbabwe fails to materialise.

Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) president Yahaya Ukwenya revealed the federation’s World Cup roadmap for the Junior Yellow Greens who are currently in camp in Abuja in an exclusive chat with busybuddiesng.com.

The national U-19 side, made history by qualifying Nigeria for its first-ever global cricket event in March when they beat Sierra Leone to qualify for the 2020 Under-19 World Cup which would hold from 17 January to 9 February 2020.

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Ukwenya said the team’s trip to the South African National Academy is to ensure that they are imbued with “what it takes” to compete against the best in the world and will help the team “upgrade their understanding of the game and the techniques of modern-day cricket” ahead of next year’s World Cup.

He said preparations for the trip had been concluded with only administrative issues at the South African Embassy delaying the issuance of visas to the team.

Yahaya Ukwenya
NCF President Yahaya Ukwenya

“The U19 boys are waiting for visas to go to Pretoria, in South Africa at the South African National Academy where they are expected to spend two weeks to upgrade their understanding of the game and the techniques of modern-day cricket,” Ukwenya told busybuddiesng.com.

“We are going to be facing the best in the world. All the best countries in the world will be at that World Cup and we want to make sure that the boys will be provided with what it takes to compete with those countries that is the purpose of going for that tour for two weeks but we are waiting for visas to come out.

“I think proper applications for visas have been made, we’ve gone through the due process, the delay is a matter of concern because we believe that by now those visas should have been available and the boys should have travelled. But we hope that this week they should be able to travel.”

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Just as they did before their trip to Namibia for the ICC World Cup qualifier Africa Division 1 where they clinched qualification to the World Cup, the Junior Yellow Greens have also been pencilled in to tour Zimbabwe a month before the start of the World Cup.

However, Ukwenya said Zimbabwe’s suspension from participating in all cricket activity by the International Cricket Council (ICC) means that Nigeria would need a special dispensation from the ICC to tour Zimbabwe on the proviso that the U19’s will only play against domestic club sides and franchises.

The decision to tour Zimbabwe, according to Ukwenya, is based on their status as a Test-playing country and the world-class facilities they offer. However, he revealed that in the event the tour fails to materialise, Namibia would serve as a fall-back option for the Junior Yellow Greens.

“In December, they will be on the road again to Zimbabwe,” Ukwenya said about the next phase of the team’s preparations.

“Because Zimbabwe [has] been suspended by [the] ICC for a number of breach of guidelines, we have to take permission from [the] ICC for the boys to tour Zimbabwe not to play their national side but at least play some of their domestic clubs and franchises.

“Another country we are considering is Namibia [but]If we get a good understanding with Zimbabwe then [there would be no] need to go to Namibia because Zimbabwe is superior to Namibia as far as the rankings are concerned because they are a test country with better facilities. So, if we have a full tour of Zimbabwe then Namibia will not be necessary, we just placed Namibia on stand by.”

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Following that tour, the team will then proceed to their World Cup base in South Africa for the final leg of their preparations.

“Eventually, they will move to South Africa, at least two weeks to the start of the tournament. So the final preparation is expected to be in South Africa, two weeks to the start of the tournament.”

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Ukwenya said the federation’s plan which had already been submitted to former Sports Minister Solomon Dalung but left unapproved before Dalung left office, would be re-submitted to the newly sworn-in Minister of Youth and Sports Sunday Dare.

“We have submitted the plan, the roadmap, including the financial implications and it is a bit of a setback that a new minister will be in office and we’ll have to go over the whole process again.”