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Musings of A Groundsman - Nigeria in Kwibuka: The Evaluation

June 15, 2021

Just over a week ago, our girls jetted off to Kwibuka, Rwanda to represent about 200 million of us in this beautiful game of cricket. Many of us who followed them have kept keen eyes on their performances against all the nations they have come up against at the tournament.

Every international competition is an opportunity for us to assess our many grassroots development programs scattered throughout the country.

To start with, a big kudos once again should go to the immediate past NCF administration for all they did to bring our cricket from where it was to where it currently is. When they assumed office, they moved with purpose and every of their step was a deliberate one geared towards uplifting the game. International female cricket was only a thought confined to the fantasies of many but today, the female cricket team has proven that they are a force to be reckoned with on the continent.

Despite winning only one of the 6 matches that our ladies played, the two encounters with Rwanda were really close; and in the game against Kenya, these ladies gave their opponents a reasonable scare. What this suggests to me is that had we prepared ourselves a bit more appropriately, we may have been able to tip some of the scales in our favour.

I noted a few of the things I felt may have tweaked the odds in our favour. 

It is mostly regarded as soft when you lose your wicket to a run out but 10 run out dismissals in just 6 matches will qualify as nothing but absolute gift for the oppositions we faced. This should be a point of worry for the batting coach (if we have any), and his focus going forward should be to teach the ladies the basics of running between wickets. It may look simple; but I have come to find that in cricket (and pretty much life in general), the simple things work wonders.

Another worrisome statistic was the sheer number of catches that were put down. My eyes on the ground in Kwibuka made me understand that we dropped close to 10 catches in those 6 games. That is alarming. Assuming we held just half of those chances, it would most likely have been a different reflection on the eventual outcome of the tournament. Again, it is easy to assume that the girls should know how to take catches but if they don't know the basics of how to, then it will just be a gamble anytime the ball goes up in the air. Whoever coined the phrase "catches win matches" sure knew the importance of not giving second lives to batters. 

One final thing is this: I may not be an authority when it comes to coaching but I know it causes uncertainty in the minds of players when they are not sure of who they will be occupying the crease with in the next game. A review of the matches reveals how erratic the batting order was. Not once did we stick to the same line up of the first 4 batters throughout the tournament. Yes, the team might be new and growing but it yet again underlines the need for ample time for preparation. Had we prepared ourselves enough, we would have had a constant opening pair at least; rather than the chop-and-change approach we adopted all through the tournament.

team of the tournament
Spot our girl (Blessing Etim) in the Team of the Tournament

However, the overall performance was satisfactory (to those us objective enough to be open-minded); and worthy of mention is a few of the individual performances with the bat.

As always, former captain and team veteran, Blessing Etim gave a good account of herself both with the leather and the willow. She finished in the top 5 of the MVP list, coming away with a man-of-the-match award in our triumph against Botswana. She was also selected as part of the Team of the Tournament- a testament to her enduring pedigree in the female national team.

- A Groundsman


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