Notwithstanding that Nigeria owes its place at the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier in the UAE to a huge slice of good fortune, President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) Professor Yahaya Ukwenya says the senior national cricket team, The Yellow Greens, must make full use of the opportunity and aim for the “unrealistic” target of securing qualification to the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup.
However, following the ICC’s decision to suspend Zimbabwe from all Cricket activities for government interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe Cricket, the Yellow Greens were called up to replace Zimbabwe who had qualified based on their ICC rankings in the tournament which bowls off in October.
Ukwenya said third place at the African qualifiers though understandable at the time, wasn’t a true reflection of the team’s level.
The team, he said were undone by an “inferiority complex” brought about by fear of facing superior opposition at the African qualifiers which affected their performance.
“We played the African qualifiers and we came third, going by our performance in the past we felt that was an acceptable performance, not the best we can play but it was acceptable,” the NCF President told busybuddiesng.com.
“I believe that the reason why the boys played below their best was a feeling of inferiority complex; that is you’re entering the field to play against a side that is higher ranked than yourself and because of that you have given yourself little or no chance of winning the match. I think that was the kind of mindset [that affected the team].”
Ukwenya who revealed that the team will undertake a two-week final pre-tournament camp in Zimbabwe says the Federation has been working on infusing the team with more self-belief and hopes they can feed off the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians to make history like their U19 counterparts who became the first Nigerian side to qualify for a global cricket tournament when they picked Africa’s sole ticket to the 2020 U19 ICC World Cup.
“We have spoken to the boys about this and we are looking at things differently now,” Ukwenya said.
“There are six qualifying places up for grabs there is no doubt that we’ll be faced with some of the best cricket playing countries in the game. So, we are preparing the minds of the players that what will please this country is to see that we overcome all the obstacles and qualify.”
Ukwenya who recently emerged as the Vice Chairman of the Africa Cricket Association (ACA) the acknowledged the improbability of Nigeria securing one the six spots on offer ahead of the UAE, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jersey, Kenya, Namibia, Netherlands, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Singapore, Canada and Bermuda.
“So, we have set a qualification target, it looks like a dream it looks unrealistic but if we do not set that kind of target then we will not make use of the opportunity to qualify if the opportunity presents itself.
“It’s going to be difficult, on paper it looks unrealistic but as Nigerians, we’ve got to play eleven against eleven against any country we are facing,” he says.
The NCF President said with a cricket tradition dating back to a century, the time is ripe for Nigeria to begin to pull its weight on the global stage starting with the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier.
“We have told ourselves that we either think of matching the best in the game or we continue to remain as pedestrian in the sport and we’ve played cricket for a hundred years and it’s about time we start making statements and this competition presents an opportunity for us to start making statements of our intentions in the game.”
The 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier is a 14-nation tournament scheduled to be held from 11 October to 3 November in the United Arab Emirates to determine the final six teams for the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup tournament in Australia.