Saturday, July 02, 2022

Lagos State Cricket – Politics Over Development?

In the last two months, there have been many activities in Lagos geared towards resurrecting grassroots cricket in the state. I understand that a Lagos State Cricket Stakeholder Forum has been set up to organize funding and structure for the development of the game in the state at the grassroots level. Under normal circumstances, this would be a laudable effort but you have to be close to the politics of Nigerian cricket to ask why this is coming up now. To be frank, I cannot say for certain myself. Is it because of the upcoming Nigerian Cricket Federation (NCF)  elections? Or could it be because the State was recently humiliated in the recently concluded Men’s National Championship and the National Sports Festival? I wonder and I dare say we need DRS to clearly ascertain the reason 

Under normal circumstances, Cricket development irrespective of the driving force should be seen as a good thing, unless it is laced to obtain personal glory and usurp the efforts of young men and women who had spent their hard-earned resources to develop cricket in the state when the LSCA was in hibernation.

My objective with this article is to share a story most people are not aware of and maybe by the slimmest of chances, the powers that be will see things differently and tow the moral high ground in its approach to cricket in the state.

If you have been involved in cricket in Lagos in the past five years, it was obvious that very little was being done at the grassroots level, but this anemic development was masked by the Club Cricket Committee (CCC) League. It has always been taken for granted that Lagos is the center for excellence when it comes to cricket, we had the most exciting league, the league had the most players in the national team and of course, we had the best social gathering (i.e. the Four O’clock group ?).

I am not a part of the LSCA Board, but I can only imagine that the state expected that somehow somehow (forgive my Nigeria colloquialism), this cricket at the league level will translate to effective grassroots cricket development; and that all other State cricket associations were also in winter. In fact, the LSCA has been said to attempt to abdicate this responsibility to the leadership of the CCC instead of rolling up her own sleeves and doing the work.

While all of this was going on, a couple of chaps (specifically Dele Oshodi and Leke Oyede) were developing young cricketers without any support from LSCA. These two young men spent countless hours in the nets with these young chaps and also spent a lot of their personal resources to cater to the social needs of these young cricketers. Sometimes they paid rent, fed them on several occasions, provided them with cricket equipment, and placed them in clubs to help hone their skills. We know a number of these young cricketers and we can attest to the quality of work Dele and Leke have done. Recently, one of these young cricketers was called up for the national team trials while a number of them have also been called up to other national age-grade teams.

I suspect that the first jolt of reality came to LSCA when the junior girls' team went for the under 17 regional girls competition in Ibadan and they were comprehensively beaten by Ekiti State. We all thought this was an exception and went back to our slumber. In a bid to save face at the boy’s under 17 regional qualifiers taking place the week after, LSCA hurriedly reached out to Leke to assist with coaching the boys in Ibadan. 85% of the boys in the Lagos State under 17 team were boys that had been taught how to play cricket by Leke. The boys represented Lagos proudly and won the regional in  Ibadan. There was no acknowledgment of the effort of this young gentleman (we can debate this later) in the successful outing of the state.

The rude awakening started for LSCA when the senior men’s team lost at the men’s national championship a month later in Edo and also played miserable cricket at the National Sports Festival. Despite winning a gold medal in the 50 overs format of the game, it became very obvious that Lagos was no longer the crown jewel for cricket in Nigeria. It was also a telling assessment of the efforts (or lack thereof) of LSCA in the development of the game in the state. It was obvious that Edo state was clearly above every once else in its development journey but it was even more impressive that Kaduna and Kwara states had outdone Lagos in cricket development despite having fewer resources.

This was a personal embarrassment to members of the LCSA who had held the reins of cricket in the state for as long as just about anybody can remember. The knee-jerk response was to set up the “Lagos State Cricket Stakeholder Forum” to revive cricket in the state. This forum sourced members from all over the globe, some of whom had never been really carried along all these years but had suddenly been co-opted into a steering committee for “restructuring the game in Lagos”. The decision to review the game appears to be driven more by the need to restore personal pride instead of a genuine passion for the game, and that is a faulty foundation to build a revival on. 

If you have been around cricket long enough, you will know that these individuals have neither the time nor the passion to drive the required development of cricket in the state. They know this themselves but in typical fashion, they want to hold on to power even to the detriment of the greater good. They want to only support what they can control and I keep asking myself why this is the case. 

In any ideal cricket environment, Dele, Leke, and similar passionate cricketers (who are actually doing the work) would be critical to and included in any development efforts by the state, yet I understand these two men have only been criticized by the LSCA leadership as “personalizing” cricket - whatever that means.

Anyone can question the character of, and approach adopted by Dele and Leke, but one clear thing is that they made a better effort in the past five years than LSCA which has comprised of individuals with more access to resources than these two fine gentlemen.

Recently, the state-appointed a development coach who is of Caribbean descent with a level 2 coaching certificate. I have not confirmed these claims and I know nothing about this individual nor do I have anything against him, but I question the choice of LSCA in appointing him. Appointing someone who you barely know his cricketing pedigree or track record over several local coaches who have put in the work with proven track records without going through a fair selection process sends the wrong message to our local coaches and does very little in encouraging them. I am not even sure this individual has the right documents to work as a cricket coach in Nigeria.


If you really mean well for the game, these are my suggestions:

Involve the young and passionate chaps in the administration of the game; get them into a functional board; support those that have good ideas for the game; see development beyond cricket and please take a back seat. 


To my last point despite the apparent wealth of experience and history of some of the members of the LSCA, it is obvious they are aging and have little or no passion for the game. Their decision to hold on to power in cricket is causing more harm than good and I sincerely hope they reflect and make the right calls. This is sounding more like the story of your typical African dictator who starts well and allows pride to dictate their fall.


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