Nigeria’s cricket national team begin their quest for a historic qualification to the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup today in Rwanda and captain of the Yellow Greens Sylvester Okpe has backed head coach Asanka Gurusinha to guide the team to success.
The ICC T20 World Cup Africa Qualifiers bowled off on Monday, 15 November at the Gahanga Cricket Oval in Kigali, Nigeria, however, start their campaign today with a morning session against Tanzania before taking on Uganda later in the day.
The Yellow Greens will play Kenya and Uganda on Thursday 18 November before rounding off their campaign with matches against Kenya and Tanzania two days later.
Winners of the tournament which ends on 21 November, will pick Africa’s ticket to the final round of qualifying for next year’s T20 World Cup and with just one slot available, competition in Kigali is bound to be fierce.
In the vastly experienced Gurusinha who won the 1996 Cricket World Cup with Sri-Lanka as a player, Okpe, who was named Yellow Greens captain just before the tournament, is confident Nigeria possesses a trump card that will see them grab the ticket.
As captain, Okpe led the Under-19 cricket national team to upset incredible odds to secure qualification to the 2020 U-19 ICC Cricket World Cup in South Africa – the first Nigerian national side to qualify for an ICC event. And the 20-year-old believes with Gurusinha guiding the team, the senior side can also make history.
“Having such a coach being with us for almost the past one year now is quite amazing,” Okpe told busybuddiesng.com about the impact of the 55-year-old Gurusinha who is the first-ever expatriate to take charge of Nigeria’s cricket national teams.
“He has taught us a lot, and he has shown us a lot about the game that we in this side of the world don’t know about and it’s quite good.”
“Myself and the team, I’m pretty sure have a lot of confidence in him. We trust in the process, it has been working and hopefully we keep going like that. We’re really impressed with the work he has done so far.”
Gurusinha was appointed in November 2020 by the Nigeria Cricket Federation to oversee the country’s national teams.
He also heads the high-performance unit of the Federation and acts as coach trainer and mentor to indigenous coaches.
A specialist left-handed batsman in his playing days, Gurusinha enjoyed an 11-year international career, playing 41 Tests and 147 One Day Internationals
He was a key member in the 1996 Cricket World Cup-winning team for Sri Lanka, scoring 65 runs in the finals against Australia.