Fourteen months ago at WCL Division Two in Windhoek, hosts Namibia were almost a forgotten group of players who had missed out on a chance to go to Zimbabwe and try to claim ODI status. While much attention was lavished on the teams that did advance - UAE and Nepal, the latter in the most dramatic fashion on a final-ball one-wicket win - there were few words for those left behind.
Even then, the consolation that was offered was mostly directed towards Canada, who were on the losing side of Nepal's historic triumph. But looking at the full slate of results, it was easy to forget that Namibia were arguably even closer to advancing to Zimbabwe than Canada were. Yes, they lost on the last day by 19 runs to the UAE in a de facto final. But like Canada, they had also been on the wrong side of a one-wicket result to Nepal, a match that looked like going the hosts' way on DLS before the skies cleared to allow a restart.
It left Namibia staring at an uncertain future fixture-wise. For Gerhard Erasmus, then a 22-year-old batsman in his final year at university in Stellenbosch, South Africa, it also forced him to commit himself after graduation to a burgeoning career as a lawyer in a practice run by his father Francois, a former ICC board member.
On day two of this year's WCL Division Two, it looked like possible déjà vu for Namibia when they stumbled badly late in a two-run loss to USA. But they bounced back to claim the tournament title and with it ODI status. It has given the now 24-year-old Namibia captain Erasmus a whole new outlook on his team's future.
"If you take a year and two months ago, we were right in the dark," Erasmus told ESPNcricinfo after Namibia romped past Oman to claim the WCL Division Two title and with it their first ever ODI win. "We sat without qualification and probably were staring down the barrel a bit, perhaps financially and whatnot behind the scenes.
"But credit to those behind the scenes. They took it on themselves to get great assets in for the team, get a great coaching staff in for the team. They started working with us from the seventh of January and here we stand today and that's all paid off. The emotion now versus that a year ago is black versus white. You can't describe in what a dark place we were compared to now. You can certainly feel that there's a brighter future and there's cricket in Namibia."
Despite that loss to USA and another final-over four-wicket loss Oman, who had clinched the first two ODI status berths available, Namibia were well-positioned heading into the final day to claim one of the final two spots. But rather than squeak through, Namibia put on an emphatic show to put up a record total of 396 against Hong Kong and then followed it by bowling out Oman for 81 in a 145-run win in the tournament final.
A star emerged in 23-year-old JJ Smit, who was named Player of the Tournament for his 13 wickets and 221 runs, which put him third overall among the tournament's leading run-getters. Stephan Baard, who turned 27 on Monday, was the second-highest run-getter.
"I think credit goes to a guy like Stephan Baard, credit goes to a guy like JJ Smit, who are the mainstays of the team," Erasmus said. "They are a year older now, they are a year more experienced in cricketing terms, and it was their time to shine. Credit to them that they did it. I see long and glamorous careers for guys like those. They keep developing their game. I'm elated for them."
Erasmus said the veteran presence of Craig Williams, who came out of retirement for this event, and Otago allrounder Christi Viljoen, who missed out last year, was just as instrumental regardless of their relatively quiet production statistically.
"This tournament is synonymous with pressure and I think pressure you can only combat if you've prepared. I think having prepared really well from January, having had mostly the same squad with a few experienced heads, really did do a lot for the team. So whether or not they performed on the field and whether or not they hit high with the stats, I don't think that matters too much at the end of the day.
"You have lots of cricketers that have brilliance off the field, that are a brilliant influence in between guys and make others play better. One example is that of Craig Williams. Although he didn't perhaps set the tournament alight stats-wise, his contribution is massive in the environment and in the changing room. I think having those two names in did raise the quality of the squad."
As to whether or not ODI status would truly professionalise cricket in Namibia, Erasmus cautioned observers not to jump the gun. Just as important as getting ODI status is sustaining it over a long period of time and he feels developing a winning culture will set up the next generation to have a more secure future in the game.
"Half of the players are contracted and the other half have to follow careers and a career in cricket," Erasmus said. "Often, I say that it's basically working two jobs and it gets tough. Your time is halved, so too is your energy, and so too is your mentality.
"I do think many of our players will still follow careers outside of cricket. But it's all about managing it. I think this ODI status and going forward will give younger guys, your 17 and 18-year-olds just coming out of school, a chance to play cricket for a few years if they wish. It's always a tough one because you have this big talent drain of guys going to university in South Africa. We have about four or five players that could have been in this squad that are studying at universities in South Africa.
"I'm not too sure what the contracts will look like. As for me, I think I'll continue on this way. I've been a bit of a pro bono worker at the moment, but hopefully that can change."