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Feature

Namibia have big plans, and Lahore Qalandars are helping them along the way

Performance at the 2021 T20 World Cup had a big impact, and Cricket Namibia is hoping to make the most of the momentum

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
20-Aug-2022
Namibia were one of the great stories of the 2021 T20 World Cup  •  Getty Images

Namibia were one of the great stories of the 2021 T20 World Cup  •  Getty Images

The national team's performance at the 2021 men's T20 World Cup appears to have had a positive impact on Namibian cricket overall. A repeat - or a better show - later this year in Australia, however, depends on their preparation, and Namibia Cricket chief executive Johan Muller expects the Global T20 tournament against two club sides to be critical in that regard.
"The performance of the national team in the 2021 World Cup [they beat Ireland and Netherlands in the first round, and Scotland in the main event] had a significant impact on interest, exposure and the growth for the game in Namibia," Muller told ESPNcricinfo. "We clearly see that in the way the players performed, which was the best team performance in any sport in Namibia at a world-class event.
"It had a real in-depth impact not just with spectators taking interest in the game but in development programmes too. Our quarterly programme was the biggest in Africa last year in 2021. We had 69,000 kids playing mini cricket, meaning one out of every five primary-school kids had the opportunity to participate in cricket in 2021.
"That's a significant number if you compare that to any other country out there, which got registered numbers in term of participants in any country with its development programme. We qualified for the 2022 World Cup and ensured that we didn't have a short period of exposure. It added another year to the build-up to this event, which clearly has an impact on the country. Besides all that, the co-hosting of the 2027 ODI World Cup has led to some significant changes in ministry, government, and the local communities to view cricket, specifically with a focus on developing the structure."
Namibia have played ODI cricket against Nepal and Scotland in the 50-over World Cup League 2, and T20Is against Jersey and USA in a tri-series at home in the past month-and-some. Cricket Namibia has also arranged a T20 tri-series against club sides from Pakistan and South Africa in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. From Pakistan, there is a representative side (sans international players) from Lahore Qalandars, the current PSL champions. And from South Africa, Imperial Lions, who won the CSA Provincial One-Day Challenge Division One in April.
"There are actually quite a number of reasons for this tournament. The first is on-field preparation for the World Cup in Australia. Playing high-quality opposition in the T20 format is critical for our preparation," Muller said. "This is something that created a lot of success for us last year and something we want to duplicate. We did manage to play Zimbabwe earlier this year and to play with top teams in member countries, which got a lot of depth in our cricket structure.
"You always find exceptionally talented players in those teams that are high-calibre and on-field preparation is key to us in performing in T20 World Cup.
"The second reason is commercial. The T20 commercial space is getting saturated and I think there is value in top players from different countries playing in a team set-up against a top Associate Member country like Namibia. I hope this completion will be a platform to showcase the talent we have in Namibia and few players on the world stage."
This was planned as a four-team tournament, but Indian domestic side Bengal had to withdraw, since the BCCI doesn't allow Indian cricketers to take part in T20 tournaments outside India. The tournament was then tweaked, and Namibia will play two one-dayers against Qalandars.
"It was a bit of a setback for the Bengal team not to be able to come," Muller said. "It [the withdrawal] was quite late, which I think was the biggest impact, because we had already planned a four-team tournament, and we couldn't advertise up till final confirmation from the BCCI. The impact is mostly from a commercial perspective, in the sense that we couldn't track the sponsorship we actually wanted in terms of broadcasting.
"It obviously would be great to have an Indian team, they bring a lot of flair and a lot of different ways of playing the game into your country, and from just an exposure perspective of cricket in Namibia, it would have been great if the Bengal team was here too."
Earlier this month, Namibia had sent four cricketers, including Jan Nicol Loftie Eaton and Pikky Ya France, from Windhoek to Lahore to train in the Qalandars academy.
"We did send four players to Lahore Qalandars as they have got a world-class facility where they cater to a lot of international players," Muller explained. "They built quite a big academy in terms of developing players not only for Lahore Qalandars but for Pakistan. It was a very clear strategy behind sending players to their academy, which is an international facility and some real talented players.
"So it was a scenic change for our players with particular focus on the spin bowlers to be able to generate more impact in the game in the middle period, which is critical these days in the modern game."
Namibia will play an ODI tri-series in Papua New Guinea after the tri-series at home before leaving for Australia, where they are grouped with Sri Lanka, Netherlands and UAE in the first round.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent