Namibia to 'play with freedom' against India as they close out eventful T20 World Cup campaign

Stephen Baard described Namibia's final game against India on Monday as "the big one"

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Namibia players get together in celebration  •  Getty Images

Namibia players get together in celebration  •  Getty Images

Namibia will relish the chance to "play with freedom" in the final game of their maiden men's T20 World Cup campaign against India on Monday according to opening batter Stephan Baard, in the knowledge that their progress to the Super 12s has ensured them a berth in next year's tournament in Australia.
Victories over Netherlands and Ireland in the initial group phase sealed a spot in both the Super 12s and the 2022 T20 World Cup for Namibia, and while they have been heavily beaten in their three second-round fixtures against full-member nations following a tight victory over Scotland, Baard said that they had made the most of the chance to play against the world's best players.
"It gives us the opportunity to express ourselves a little bit more," Baard, the opening batter, said of playing against Afghanistan, Pakistan, New Zealand and India. "We're used to playing in qualifiers where every game is almost a do or die type game. Here, the intensity is so much different to what we're used to and the discipline is so much better than what we're used to but it's a great learning experience.
"It is tough, I'll be honest about that. It is tough to learn in a short space of time in between games when you only have two or three days in between. To execute your plans and talk about different approaches to different players at this level, it can be quite tough, but it's a great experience and it's great to be part of it. Going forward, I know we're going to the World Cup next year as well, so it's something that we need to work on for the next 12 months."
Baard described Namibia's fixture against India on Monday - in a game that could see their opponents needing a huge win in order to take their net run-rate above Afghanistan's to ensure semi-final qualification - as "the big one", and said that it would be the final stage in a "surreal" month for the squad.
"It gives us the chance to play with freedom," he said. "That's the big one. It's a big group and every game is a big game, but to finish off with the India team? It's something to look forward to. It's something that a couple of months ago, you didn't even think about, so yeah - we're looking forward to that one.
"It's been absolutely massive. We've enjoyed every single minute of it. We want to compete, we're here to compete, but in the same sense, we want to learn as much as possible. We want to see what these guys do on and off the field and up until this point, it's been surreal."
Baard said that New Zealand's late charge when batting first - which saw Jimmy Neesham and Glenn Phillips add 67 runs in the final four overs to take the game away from Namibia - provided them with opportunities to learn how to improve at the death with both bat and ball.
"On the bowling front, it will definitely be about executing certain plans, especially on a field where the one side is a lot bigger than the other," he said. "The big part from the batting side will just be to see how they execute at the back end. That's one of the things I spoke about along with their batters next to the field - how they change it up in the last four or five overs and where their options would be."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98