Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Love Notes From Kwibuka


  • June 22, 2022
  • in Women ,
  • 0

Dear Cricket Nigeria,

It is with utmost pleasure that I am sending this heartfelt note to you across the continent. I would have handed you the note myself but the fun was so much, that I got lost in the ecstasy of having so many beautiful people around with me, joining in my celebration. By the time you are reading this, your girls would have arrived back safely, bearing lots of interesting news about me. As always, having them around has been a source of joy and inspiration to me, and to other cricketing ladies all over the continental map. This year, however, it was a bigger party I hosted and I thought to make it more fun by extending my invitation to Europe and South America. Germany and Brazil brought in their flavor to make this year's the most colorful one yet. I am certain we left good impressions in their minds and gave them pleasant stories to tell when they return home.

My Love, to say I was honored that you honored my invitation would be an understatement. The support I have received from you over the years has been immense and I am grateful to always have you by my side. Growth should be a continuum and it was such a pleasing delight to see that your growth has been progressive and continuous since the last time you visited. Your girls did you proud. To the best of their respective abilities, they flew your flag as high as they were afforded. In your heart of hearts, I am sure you acknowledge that they have not fallen too far off from general expectations. If anything, there was evidence of improvement in some aspects of their outing; and for that, many of us are proud of them.

To begin with, you should take delight in the work that has been put into the bowling department by the coaching team. What I saw was an awesome expression of T20 bowling. Unlike Test Cricket and One-Dayers which focus on chasing wickets, the T20 format is about starving batters of runs. The fewer runs you concede, the better your chances of chasing down or defending your total. And if the batters want to force themselves to play, then mistakes like false shots and phantom runs begin to creep in. The bottom line, keep your attack on the offside and watch your opponents play the way you want them to. And this was exactly how your girls bowled. Their primary line of attack was just outside the off stump, not aiming to attack the wicket or straying onto the pads, daring the batters to prod and execute their drive strokes along the corridor of uncertainty. This is one of the most effective ways to bowl in T20 cricket at any level, and it pretty much worked for you girls. This gave your bowlers the upper hand and less than half of their deliveries were put away for runs. There is still plenty of work to be done, but the foundation has been laid and that is a step in the right direction.

I noted a few things I would love to see you do differently. The first major thing has been a source of worry for me; it struck me hard to see that it still persisted from your last visit till this one. 

Running between the wickets has been, and still is something your technical team needs to critically look at. It is easy to think it is simple but in this game, every aspect of it is an art. It is not enough to know it. Application of it is equally as important as the knowledge of it (if not more important). To be able to apply knowledge efficiently, there needs to be hours and hours of practice and that is when it can be fully expressed as art. Remember, batters in the middle are a team and should run as so. Calling for a run, responding to the call, and executing the run are three parts of the same art. But unfortunately, coaches often neglect the first two aspects, assuming that they are basic and batters should know by instinct.

I watched in agony as your girls unwittingly dashed out 10 run-out dismissals to the opposition in 4 consecutive games; with 5 of those coming in a single game (against Tanzania). Sounds unbelievable, but it is true. Losing half of the team to run-outs is something really worrisome and it suggests that the girls lost the plot totally. They kept hitting the ball straight to fielders in the inner ring and running. Nobody could take charge of the chaos, whether amongst the players or within the coaching crew. Everyone just panicked and watched as the girls ran themselves out. It was either they underestimated the fielding side or overestimated their own speed between wickets or the less likely option is that you have not attempted to fix this issue since the last outing. This was even worse than the last visit when they gave out 10 in 6 games. It is apparent that there is still plenty to be done in the batting department asides from defending the wicket and attacking the bowling. If you must assert your batting, soft dismissals should be totally eradicated from your play.

Talking about attacking, in the game against the hosts, after captain Etim had rescued the top order collapse, her batting partner did not seem to understand the equation needed by the team. She ate up 28 deliveries for her 4 runs before she was eventually retired for the explosive Salome. But the move was a little too late as the female Yellow-Greens fell to a 23-run defeat. Something that could have been averted if the strike was adequately rotated. The coaching team should have read the situation earlier or arranged the lineup differently.

Still, in the batting department, more than 60% of the balls faced by your batters were dotted. Out of the 120 balls available to be played, your ladies allowed 72 of those to go without scoring off them, leaving them with only 48 balls to score from. That ratio is too unbalanced if you ask me. 

Also, there is a need for a reorientation and redefinition of opening batting in your T20 cricket. The power play rule was set for a reason. It is supposed to create an avenue for batters to score - explore the space behind the fielders in the inner ring and score as quickly as you can. An analysis of your girls' innings points to the fact that they scored about 20 runs in the opening 5 overs. That is about 4 runs per over. For this format of the game, this run rate is suicidal. If they cannot pick out the space behind the inner ring when the field is close, how can they score runs after the field has been opened up? Your batters were unable to pick the gaps between fielders so the option of quick singles was not available for them either. 

In the field, even though there was improved tactical awareness, there still was an abundance of evidence to suggest your girls lack the fitness required at this level. Dots were turned to singles and singles readily went for boundaries, simply because the girls seemed tired and were not half as aggressive as they should have been. 

To add to that, most of the runs they conceded came in the latter part of the innings. They gave out an average of 30 runs in the last 5 overs of the innings. Compared to less than 20 in the power play, this most likely means the ladies began to lose concentration as the innings wore on. It could also mean that the bowlers got less tidy in their bowling as the game went on. Whichever one it is, you must plug the leak that comes in the tail end of the opposition batting innings. The body will only go as far as it is trained to go. For the leading example that you are on the continent, your fielding should step up to not only compliment the bowling but also heap pressure on opposition batting and force them into telling mistakes. Tactical awareness needs physical fitness for potency.

On a final note, another reason for applauding the coaches is the work they have done in the wicketkeeping department. Not only has the team’s first choice 'keeper improved since her last outing, but there has also been a new revelation in that department. A revelation that stepped up to be counted when called upon.

My darling Cricket Nigeria, to say I am already missing you does not fully describe how I currently feel but the anticipation of having you around in another 12 months will keep me going. 

I will stop here for now before I get emotional. Please take good care of yourself for me, and please work on the areas that I just spoke about. I would love to see an even better showing from you next year. 

Till then, I continue to look forward to seeing you again.

With love,

Kwibuka

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