Nigeria U19 cricket national team captain Sylvester Okpe has declared that the Junior Yellow Greens will be perfectly prepared to shock the world on their debut when the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup bowls off in South Africa in January.
Okpe and his teammates confounded global and national expectations when they waltzed through two different African qualifying tournaments without losing a game, swatting aside stalwarts such as Namibia, Uganda and Kenya to become the first Nigerian team to qualify for a global cricket event.
Ever since they secured qualification earlier in the year, the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) has worked overtime to make the team as competitive as possible and ensure that they would not be in South Africa just to make up the numbers.
The players have been in camp since July and a number spent some time honing their skills at the National Sports Academy in Johannesburg in October while a couple more were part of the senior national team squad at the recently concluded ICC T20 World Cup qualifiers in the UAE.
The NCF recently announced the final 15-man squad for the tournament and promptly dispatched the team on a month’s long pre-tournament tour of South Africa where the Junior Yellow Greens will take on the hosts and Pakistan among other opposition in preparatory matches ahead of the tournament.
And Okpe says all the groundwork being put in place for the team’s success has served to boost the team’s motivation ahead of their tournament opener against Australia on 20 January.
“The experience we’ve had most recently for the training and all is really good and with this pre-tournament, we’re going for, for over 50 days before the tournament is really going to boost the morale of the players,” Okpe told busybuddiesng.com ahead of the team’s departure.
“The experience of the players is going to increase, and I can tell you all the guys are pumped up to play the tournament already.”
On a personal note, the captain of the Junior Yellow Greens believes the experience of competing at the 2020 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup qualifiers with the senior team has helped him improve despite the team failing to win any of their six matches.
“I would say the experience and the learning process of it,” he said about the key takeaways from the UAE.
“We’ve played tough guys, big countries in cricket. We actually learnt a lot from every game we played. We made sure we learnt a couple of things from each game. So that has really helped my cricket a lot and I know it has helped a lot of guys here also. So it has been a really great experience for us,” Okpe said.
And while being unheralded and underdogs in the African qualifiers might have contributed to their amazing feat of securing qualification, the Junior Yellow Greens would face an altogether different and more difficult prospect at the tournament proper.
They have been paired with powerhouses Australia, England and West Indies in Group B but Okpe insists that the Junior Yellow Greens who are making their debut at the tournament would take to the field without any fear for their more accomplished opponents.
“I’m really confident that Nigeria will put up a good performance because I said it in recent times that cricket is a ball and bat game, everything that happens on the pitch of play is quite different from what you see on paper before the match,” Okpe told busybuddiesng.com.
“So we’ll just go there, play to the best of our abilities, make sure we put everything in place, no room for mistakes and see what comes out of it.”
And having achieved what no other side has been able to in over a century of cricket in Nigeria, Okpe says the team would be counting on the support of Nigerians to continue to make history at the World Cup.
“First of all, I’ll say thank you to all the Nigerians for their support recently, and I hope that they’ll continue the support and more people will continue to support us and pray for the success of the team,”
Nigeria U19 National Cricket Team To The ICC Under 19 World Cup
Sylvester Okpe (Captain), Taiwo Mohammed (Vice Captain), Sulaimon Runsewe, Olaleye Elijah, Ikaige Miracle, Jimoh Abdulrahman, Oche Boniface, Danladi Isaac, Aho Peter, Isesele Akhere, Mba Samuel, Abolarin Abdulrasheed, Uboh Ifeanyi, Audu Shehu Isiaka, Akhigbe Miracle
Development Players On Standby
Nwokike Nzube, Onwubualili Chidi, Useni Prosper
Coach – Ogbimi Clive Uthe; Team Manager – Oche Onoja Joseph
Group A: India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Japan
Group B: Australia, England, West Indies, Nigeria
Group C: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Scotland
Group D: Afghanistan, South Africa, UAE, Canada
Nigeria vs Australia
Date : 20 January 2020 Venue: Country Club Field Kimberly
Nigeria vs West Indies
Date: 23 January 2020
Venue : Country Club Field Kimberly
Nigeria vs England
Date: 25th January 2020
Venue: Diamond Oval Kimberly