Preparations for the U19 2020 Cricket World Cup to be held in South Africa next January will begin “very early” with a “minimum of three tours” planned to ensure Nigeria’s representatives, The Junior Yellow Greens get the best possible build-up to the tournament, President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) Professor Yahaya Ukwenya has said.
Nigeria’s U19 Male Cricket Team became the first Cricket side from West Africa to qualify for an ICC World Cup at any level when they vanquished hosts Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone to emerge unbeaten at the U19 ICC World Cup Qualifiers Africa Division One held in Windhoek, Namibia from 15th to 24th March, 2019.
A major reason attributed for the team’s success was their tour of Zimbabwe where the U19 team played a series of preparatory games against the test playing nation before the qualifiers and having seen the spectacular benefits of that approach, Ukwenya now aims to replicate it in time for the World Cup in South Africa.
“In Cricket preparation comes in form of camping and tours. Tours to countries because we need to gain experience. Instead of playing one match at a time we play a series of matches like [a] five match series or [a] three match series against another country,” Ukwenya told busybuddiesng.com about the Federation’s World Cup plans for the U19 Cricket Male Team.
“Definitely all these tours will be planned very early because we want to make sure that there is a proper build-up to the World Cup for the boys.
“To prepare them to be in a position to compete and win (the qualifiers) we had to send them to Zimbabwe for a five-match series and a two-week camp. That put them in a very good position because the issue of believing in their own ability in their talent became clear in Zimbabwe who were much higher ranked than Nigeria. So we will pick a number of countries where the boys will gain experience and we will be running different camps but as a team we are planning at least a minimum of three tours one of which will lead to the tournament itself.”
In addition to preparing the team for the World Cup, Ukwenya also said the tours and camps will also serve to select players for the tournament.
The NCF maintains a policy of using the best available players for competitions which was why three players from the squad that prosecuted the Africa Division Two qualifiers – Toeeb Obisesan, Segun Ogundipe, and Eghosa Aghedo – were dropped and three new players – Miracle Ikaije, Emmanuel Boniface and Akhere Isesele – were drafted to the team in their place after closed camping in Abuja for the qualifiers in Namibia.
Ukwenya says the final World Cup squad will be made up of players who prove themselves worthy although he maintains that the bulk of players who have been ever present from the Division Two qualifiers and did “us proud” by qualifying the country for the World Cup are near certainties for the final cut of players to the World Cup in South Africa in January, 2020.
“Any player that satisfies the eligibility criteria for selection and has the kind of talent that we want will be a candidate so the doors are not closed to selection there is still opportunity. Except that we know this team already has it, we know the key players that have done us proud even from Division Two, those ones do not have issues about selection [but] there are always opportunities so if I see anyone that is better we should have to give them a chance because we want to do well at the competition so the door is open for other players.
“Just that the players must fully satisfy the eligibility criteria to participate in the competition and they must have enough quality and they will be tested.
“During the tours, they will be tested and that’s one advantage of the tours because it’s like throwing somebody into an ocean and say swim to the shore if you can. So when we bring in new players we test them and if they can withstand the pressure of competing then we will now decide if the player will make the final squad or not. At least there’d be one tour, second tour, then we’d draw the final squad”