Namibia's "incredible achievement" in claiming a place in the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa was a tribute to the great strides being made to spread the game into Africa, Dr Ali Bacher, executive director of 2003 CWC, said today.
In particular, he praised Hoosain Ayob, a South African who is the International Cricket Council's development manager for Africa, for the tireless work he has done for the past four years driving cricket into Africa.
"I call him Dr Livingstone because of the fine missionary work he has done on behalf of cricket on our continent," said Dr Bacher.
South Africa's World Cup tournament organiser also singled out Namibian cricket chief Laurie Peters for his efforts to take his young team (average age 23) onto centre stage of the international game.
"It is quite incredible what they have done, a truly extaordinary achievement," said Dr Bacher from Toronto in Canada where he is attending the ICC Trophy tournament where cricket's amateur national teams have been battling for a place in the World Cup. "I am told that the Namibian government is also very supportive of their cricket team and assisted them financially to play in Canada."
Namibia, ranked a lowly 13th at the start of the 23-team qualifying tournament in Toronto, become the fourth African team with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya to play in the World Cup.
The Namibians play Holland in the final of the ICC Trophy on Sunday and the two teams automatically join a 2003 CWC pool that is likely to comprise Australia, Pakistan, India, England and Zimbabwe.
In their latest triumph in Toronto, the Namibians beat Scotland who were heavily tipped to play in the final. Scotland now meet Canada in the third place playoff in Toronto on Tuesday, the winner joining the 2003 CWC pool likely to comprise South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Kenya.
The eighth Cricket World will be held in southern Africa during February and March of 2003.No one had given Namibia a chance of qualifying to play in cricket's premier global tournament and it was even a surprise when they qualified for the Super 8's league at the ICC Trophy. This, however, served to inspire them to greater heights, and they became the only team to go through the Super 8s unbeaten, with victories over Canada, Holland, UAE and Scotland en route to Sunday's final.
The Namibians said a key factor in their success story was the "toughening experience" they have enjoyed for the past four years in playing in South Africa's domestic three-day Bowl competition.
On a personal level, Namibia's most inspirational player, Rudi van Vuuren, is said to become the first man to play in both a cricket and rugby world cup. In 1999 he was Namibia's flyhalf at the Rugby World Cup.
Dr Bacher said he was impressed with the way that Van Vuuren exhorted his teammates on the field. "He is like Jonty Rhodes, always shouting encouragement and egging his men on. Around the ground you could hear his voice in the victory over Scotland: 'Kom, manne, ons gaan wen!' (Come on, men, we're going to win!')
Dr Bacher was also impressed with the medium pace bowling of Burton van Rooi, a coloured player, who took six for 43 against Scotland; and with Namibia's hard-hitting skipper Danie Keulder who scored a century and two 80s during the week.