Terms such as runs, wickets, sixes and so on are not the kind of words that the average Nigerian sporting fan is interested. In his world, those words are drowned by familiar ones like goals, throw-in, free-kick, etc., and this is simply down to the bias we have towards football in this part of the world. The love for the round-leather game has thus relegated other sports to the backwaters. As such, Nigeria’s participation in other sports has now dwindled while some have not even taken flight at all. One of such sports that is hardly found on the lips of Nigeria sport lovers is the game of cricket.

The only idea some persons have about the game is probably impacted while watching one of those ODIs or test games shown on Supersports channels. And in some other instances, you might have seen a couple of aspiring lads - whom you might have even tagged ‘day-dreamers' - who were raring to give the sport [of cricket] a try and place Nigeria's name on the world map, competing alongside top-performing nations like India, Australia, West Indies, South Africa, and the likes. Well, that dream seems to be finding its wings at this point. Much of the credit must go to the Nigerian Cricket Federation led by Professor Adams Ukwenyi and of course, the young men who qualified the nation for the next ICC U-19 world cup tourney that will be held in South Africa next year.

Heroics of the U-19 ‘Green Yellow'
Only a few – among those who knew about their participation in the qualifiers – would have given Nigeria a chance to make a significant impact at the qualifying rounds that took place in Namibia. But lo, and behold, the boys went, saw, and conquered all – including Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia – that were thrown their way; coming out of the qualifying series unscathed. Winning all five games means the victory was not a flash in the pan, especially when you consider the fact that some of their opponents are no stranger to the game of cricket.

Despite the odds – talk about the unsupportive ambience at home and suchlike – that were against them, they did rise to ensure that Nigeria qualify for a major cricket tournament for the first time. I perceive self-belief and determination would have played a huge part in their success story. The game of cricket may be relatively unknown in Nigeria, the feat of this U-19 team led by captain Sylvester Okpe could be the ember that is needed to ignite the love for the sport and endear the Nigerian cricket teams [across all age grades] to the heart of Nigerians. By the way, those who have spent time watching or even playing the game know just how exciting the game could be with some zesty runs, deadly wickets and powerful sixes unraveled by participating teams.

Nigerian cricket federation has indeed given so much to the development of cricket in the country, and this victory shows how far they have come. That said, one cannot but expect that the Federation we keep doing its utmost to ensure that the boys [and Nigeria in particular] are not just counted among the number but leave a meaningful mark on the world stage. The Nigerian cricket team is a promising one and one that is worth investing in – here is a call for the intervention of corporate bodies in the development of the sport in Nigeria.

How shall I end this piece without doling out the roll call of the heroes that qualified Nigeria for her first ever international cricket world cup? So, here we have them:

  • Sylvester Okpe (captain)

  • Mohammed Taiwo

  • Isaac Danladi

  • Olayinka Olaleye

  • Abdulrahman Jimoh

  • Shehu Audu

  • Sulaimon Runsewe

  • Miracle Ikaige

  • Rasheed Abolarin

  • Ifeanyichukwu Uboh

  • Peter Aho

  • Emmanuel Boniface

  • Samuel Mba

  • Akhere Isesele

  • Coach: Uthe Ogbimi