Saturday, July 02, 2022

North Central Female Team Confident Ahead of NCF/PwC Tournament

The third edition of the PwC/NCF Under 17 national cricket tournament will be nothing sort of excitement, great cricket, and an array of new talents.

The past year has been instrumental to the development of female cricket in the country and a zone like the North- Central is not short of improvement.

Of the seven states, including FCT, that make up the zone, Kwara and Kogi have maintained a healthy rivalry as they go toe to toe in the development of female cricket in the region. This is evident in the just concluded zonal qualifiers of the national U-17 event in Abuja, a fortnight ago.

The final game, where both teams slugged it out, was a repeat of the finals in the previous edition, also hosted by FCT in 2021. At the time, Kogi defeated hard-fighting Kwara by one run. Coach Awobola Yusuf reminiscences on that defeat.

"It was a very painful one for us as a team because we were so close to victory. I remember talking to the girls then, encouraging them and giving them technical tips on how to stay top but we just lost it in a twinkle of an eye," Yusuf recalls.

Two weeks ago, Yusuf's girls had their pound of flesh as Team Kwara earned an emphatic nine-wicket victory against their rivals, in Abuja, and thrashed Plateau by 146 runs. 

Kwara became eventual champions of the North Central zonal event and have the opportunity to lead the zone as well as select good players from their other two rivals, to present a strong opposition against other zones in the finals of the Under 17 tournament beginning from February 15. 

In 2021, Kwara's defeat meant Yusuf would act as an assistant coach, to Edisha Omolaiye, coach of the Kogi state team, but the recent victory places Yusuf in pole position to lead and select quality players for North Central.

The zone ended second place in the previous edition in Edo state, with the South-South zone, eliminating them in the process.

The Coach added that his team would respect all sides, bearing in mind that grassroots development is springing up rapidly across the country, but would give it all on the field of play. 

"Last year, we were second, this year we are looking at the first position but, we know that it is not going to be an easy ride for us or for any team at the tournament. We have gone back to the drawing board and will try and exploit some of the available avenues for us to win this time around. The tournament will get tougher every year and we know that, and we have been putting a lot of touches on our training since our qualifiers ended. 

"We know our weaknesses and we working on them," Yusuf said.

The coach went further to add that the team was focusing on improving its batting ability.

"The batting department is what we are trying to improve on. We are not doing very well there, not meeting up to our required target. 

The Kwara State coach said he had already compiled the names of his 14-man squad, with the help of other coaches, ahead of the tournament.

He said seven players would emerge from Kwara, five from Kogi, and two from Plateau state.

Meanwhile, a number of experienced hands would be making a return in this year's edition for the zone. 

Sixteen-year-old Queen Joseph, best batter, Sofiat Abdulwaheed (11), also best bowler,  Ruqayat Abdulrazaq (15), most valuable player, all individual awards earners at the recent zonal qualifiers. Also, Eunice Onubi (16) and Azizat Sulaimon (15) are all players from Kwara State.

With the team level of preparation, it won't be a surprise, if North Central achieves the same feat as the previous year or claim the top spot in the women's finals of the NCF/PwC event.


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