When you think of sports in Nigeria, your mind will probably start thinking about football and some of the fantastic players that have hailed from this country down the years. There is one sport that many will not associate with Nigerians, and that is cricket. Therefore, you will probably be surprised to find out that cricket has quite a fan base in Nigeria.
Below we shall take a closer look at the progress that cricket in Nigeria made throughout 2020 and what lies ahead in 2021.
The U19 Team Makes History
In January 2020, Nigeria’s U19 cricket team added themselves to the history books by becoming the first Nigerians to play at a Cricket World Cup. While they were bowled out cheaply in all three group matches, they got their first World Cup win against Japan and finished in 15th place. They will probably be the first to agree that they did not put on the show that they would have liked, but they definitely would have gained a lot from their experience playing against some of the best young cricketers in the world.
Cricket fans in Nigeria would have been proud to see these youngsters competing at a Cricket World Cup and many probably put a bet on cricket online. Nigerians love to bet on sports, and it is estimated that they spend around $60 billion a year betting on different sports. Many probably would have bet on Nigeria to beat Japan in the 16th/15th play off and earned a tidy profit from it.
The Pandemic Caused Disruptions
When the U19s returned home, they were meant to travel to Kenya the following week to participate in the Africa Cricket Association Tournament, but restrictions were soon put in place to try and stop the spread of the virus. As a result, the event was canceled. However, despite all the difficulties that popped up in 2020, the Nigerian Cricket Federation managed to make huge strides in their goal to develop cricket in Nigeria, and 2021 is a year that can definitely be a great one for Nigerian cricket.
Professor Adam Ukwenya, who is the President of the Nigerian Cricket Federation, said that they used their time wisely during the lockdown. They took the time to review programs, budget allocation, annual events, and made the decision to maximize online sources to ensure that 2020 was not a complete waste. We think that it is fair to say that they definitely did not waste any of their time.
Increased Cricket at Schools
At the moment it is estimated that there are 150,000 children playing cricket each year in Nigeria, and one of the main aims put forward by the Nigerian Cricket Federation is to double this figure to 300,000. After the success that the U19s had in qualifying for the U19 World Cup in 2020, it seems that junior cricket will be the main focus for the Nigerian Cricket Federation as they realise that developing young players will eventually have an impact on how good the senior national team will be.
In order to get this campaign of theirs up and running, they have ordered 2000 cricket sets from India. There are plenty of children throughout Nigeria who do not play cricket because the equipment is not cheap, but the arrival of thousands of kits from India will allow the poorer children to join in should they so wish.
An Online Revolution
Nigerian cricket found itself in the cricket news for a little bit in 2020 after it was announced that former Sri Lanka player, Asanka Gurusinha, was taking over as head coach. Furthermore, this reveal broke new grounds since the whole revealing was carried out online. The revealing included adverts, shortlisting, interviews, and the contract signing.
Online working is something that became normal last year throughout the world, but there are a number of challenges that can arise. When looking back at 2020, Ukwenya reflected that one lesson that was learnt was that it can be cost efficient and effective for cricket boards to work online.
What Lies Ahead?
For the majority of us, a new year is an opportunity to set ourselves new aims to think about the opportunities that lie ahead. The Nigerian Cricket Federation certainly has clear goals, and it looks like they are going to be making the most out of this year.
On the domestic cricket scene, they want to reformat it to improve growth and they are going to be expecting a lot more from regional competitions and schools this year. The Nigerian Cricket Federation currently have a linear selection method when it comes to choosing their teams, and more competitive matches will obviously have a big impact on the quality of the national team. Therefore, with many international matched scheduled for 2021 and plenty of domestic events, 2021 will be an important year for Nigerian cricketers. They will all be eager to show off their skills when playing in domestic events so that their name is added to the hat when it comes to being selected for the national team.
Our Final Reflections
Considering the hard work that the Nigerian Cricket Federation put in across 2020, 2021 is a year that definitely can be an exciting one for everyone involved in cricket in Nigeria. The main focus on domestic expansion means that Nigerian cricket should be able to grow. With this being said though, only time will tell just how big an impact the actions of the Nigerian Cricket Federation will have on the field.
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