As Nigeria’s national women’s cricket team, The Female Yellow Greens, gets set to tackle Rwanda later today in their opening game at the ICC Women’s World Cup Africa Qualifier, President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) Professor Yahaya Ukwenya has indicated that the team are under no pressure to pick up the sole qualification slot on offer at the tournament taking place in Zimbabwe.
Female cricket in Nigeria is still in its embryonic stages with the country’s first ever participation at a competitive tournament having come a little over six years ago and for Ukwenya, having the Female Yellow Greens invited by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to participate in the qualifiers already qualifies as a victory of sorts and although he would love to see them spring a surprise against far better opponents, he believes that even if the team fails to win a single game, participation alone counts as success.
“The girls have a very short history of involvement in cricket. As far as the country is concerned, female cricket started about 2007 and our first competition was about 2012/2013 so you can see that this is a very young team,” Ukwenya told busybuddiesng.com.
“[They are] young in experience and young in age, but that we are even invited to participate in World Cup Qualifiers – because this is our first ever World Cup Qualifiers for female cricket – is even an achievement on its own. But we also hope that they will put up credible performances. Let’s just say that if they do not win a match, we cannot blame them [but] at the same time we are expecting them to work hard on the field of play to win and we are praying that they do well.”
In addition to Rwanda, Nigeria will also face off against Mozambique, Tanzania and hosts Zimbabwe in Group A of the qualifiers and having already played the much experienced Rwandans in a 5-match Bilateral series in January which Nigeria won 3-2, Ukwenya hopes the experience coupled with the long period of preparation would help spur the girls to surmount the odds against them at the tournament.
Although he concedes the Female Yellow Greens face tough opposition and are handicapped by a number of challenges, Ukwenya hopes that the unique spirit of resilience that manifests in Nigerians in competition will come to fore and stir the team to “defend our flag and our dignity and our pride on the field of play”.
“In January we invited Rwanda, Rwanda have been playing in this tournament much longer than us and we played a five match series against the Rwandans and we won 3-2 here in Abuja that plus the amount of time they have spent in camp, we expect them to put credible performances but the limitations about female cricket in the country is obvious for us to see.
“Age, experience in number of years of involvement in the game: these are issues that we need to think about and we have some very strong sides in this qualifier; Zimbabwe a test playing country is also in the qualifier [and] they are in our group.
“But nevertheless, when a Nigerian team leaves the shores of this country we expect them to go and defend our flag and our dignity and our pride on the field of play.”
Nigeria play Rwanda today after which they take on Mozambique on Monday, Tanzania on Wednesday and round off the group stage against hosts Zimbabwe on Saturday.
Other countries participating at the tournament include Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and Sierra Leone in Group B.
Group A winners play the winners of Group B for the sole ticket to the next and final qualifying stage.
The ICC Women’s World Cup Africa Qualifier in Zimbabwe runs through 5-12 May, 2019.