Square Pegs in Square Holes- A tale of 3 years
The phrase, “ONE BAD APPLE SHOULD NOT SPOIL THE WHOLE BUNCH” has never been more relevant than it is when you write about Cricket in Nigeria today. In over a century of our existence as a Cricket playing nation and the political, social, and technical changes to the body managing the game, we can proudly say that we have finally come of age.
The last 3 years represents the best period recorded in the history of the sport in Nigeria with overwhelming evidence to back this statement. Although Nigeria Cricket over the years have been on the local, national and international news for whatever reasons, every cricketer today would be proud to be associated with the level of success recorded by this present administration.
In July 2017, the present Board of the Nigeria Cricket Federation was inaugurated. Understanding the magnitude of work to be done, the board as a matter of urgency decided that significant changes had to be made. This rational but firm decision birthed the 5 pillars of development to be focused upon. These 5 pillars include:
1. Promoting the game of Cricket at all levels (Male & female) through grassroots development in the six Geo-political zones
2. Upgrading infrastructure in key locations in line with international standards and making modern equipment available to players at all levels.
3. Establish strategic partnerships with other key stakeholders, notably, sponsors, media and international cricket bodies.
4. Improve the quality of our players and officials at all levels through regular local and international competitions and development events.
5. Maintain appropriate Governance and Finance structures to ensure we run a sustainable business of Cricket.
The first key imperative focuses on grassroots development of the game across the country. The present Board understood very clearly that the only way to sustain the sport is a drastic and deliberate grassroots development which gave birth to the NAIJA KIDS CRICKET, with a clear road map of bringing 50, 000 new entrants into the sport annually. In the first phase of the program which captured just 17 states across the 6 zones, over 40, 000 new entrants have been introduced to the sport.
The International Cricket Council and the Nigeria Cricket Federation also made considerable strides in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Federal Ministry of Education on the possibilities of Cricket returning back to schools curriculum through the state basic Education board. The meeting with the various Ministers has also provided the Federation on the statistics of schools across the country and the best method of approach.
Cricket Participation at the National Youth Games in Ilorin, Kwara State by the Federation and the successful sponsorship secured with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is also a clear statement on providing competitions for age grade Cricket in the country.
Infrastructural development no doubt is one of the most important pillars to grow and improve the quality of the sport in the Country. The supposed never ending story of substandard facilities as a key factor in limiting the performance of the Nigerian team abroad is fast becoming a thing of the past. What seemed impossible with over a century of Cricket in the country suddenly becomes a reality in 3 years. The Construction of Turf Wicket Pitches in various parts of the country is one of the Hallmark successes of this Present Administration. The Tafawa Balewa Square Cricket Oval which is traditional home of Cricket in the country finally will have a turf wicket. What was deemed as a mirage by so many has been made possible because of the collective will and desire of the present leadership and various department of the Federation to set a standard and do things properly. Abuja will boast of 2nd Turf Wicket pitches under construction and finally, not forgetting the Private efforts for the Turf Wicket pitches in Benin City, Edo State, the University of Lagos and most recently Kaduna State.
Analyzing the 3rd key imperative for development by this present administration of the NCF, the single largest collective assembling of government and corporate sponsorship for Cricket in history was recorded in 2018 by this present administration. The International Cricket Council, The Africa Cricket Association, The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports development, The Nigeria Cricket Federation and the Lagos State Government has been notable sponsors of Cricket while over 10 corporate sponsors have also been in partnership with the Federation in the last 3 years. The underlying factor that attracts sponsorship is the Integrity, Transparency and Accountability of Board leadership. This present administration has also shown clearly that the above listed factors are the bedrock of success achieved thus far.
The commitment by this present administration to improve the quality of the players and officials at all levels has been phenomenal. You may recall that in 2018, coaches and umpires were sent to South Africa for training and certification. In 2019, the International Cricket Council (ICC) organized a Level 1 coaching and umpires course where facilitators from Cricket South Africa were engaged. These capacity training also saw a tremendous increase in the number of certified umpires and coaches in Nigeria. The 3 umpires selected from the Nigeria panel to officiate at the ICC U-19 World Cup Africa Qualifier in South Africa 2018, also represents giant strides being made by this administration in regards to upgrading our officials to world standard. Players’ welfare, Camping and Pre-tournament tours have also been sacrosanct with the ripple effects evident from the successes recorded by our national teams.
Corporate governance structure of this administration have drawn admiration from the International Cricket Council, the Federal government and private sponsors which have reflected in the successful partnership with various government and corporate bodies in the last 3 years. Board meetings and annual general meetings have been regularly held to review the progress made and also reflect on areas where improvement has to be made. The administrative arm of the Federation has been restructured with a new organogram to enable the workforce perform at optimal capacity. A little reflection on some specific program and achievements by this Administration can further broaden the realities on ground and erase perhaps any misinformation or representation that may hitherto exist.
Here is a list of programs and achievements by this administration to mention a few.
1. Hosted the first Nigeria Cricket Federation Awards nights in Lagos December 2017
2. Participated at the International Women’s tri series friendly tournament in Ghana, January 2018.
3. Hosted the first International Cricket Council and Africa Cricket Association Cricket Tournaments in Lagos, April 2018.
4. Sent Umpires and Coaches to South Africa on capacity building and certification, April/May 2018.
5. National U-19 team pre-tournament tour to Uganda prior to the U-19 World Cup Africa division 2 qualifier in South-Africa, July 2018.
6. 3 Umpires selected from Nigeria for the ICC U-19 World Cup Africa division 2 Qualifier in South Africa, August 2018.
7. Nigeria crowned champions of the ICC U-19 World Cup Africa division 2 Qualifier in South Africa, August 2018.
8. Nigeria National Senior Men’s Team participation at the Cricket South Africa Invitational tournament, September 2018.
9. NCF National Development Seminar September, 2018.
10. Naija Kids Cricket Launched, November 2018.
11. Nigeria and Rwanda International bilateral series began, January 2019.
12. Nigeria sends 2 cricketers to South Africa high performance camp, January 2019.
13. ICC Commercial Strategy and Development Workshop, February 2019
14. ICC World Cup Trophy tour to Nigeria successfully hosted, February 2019.
15. Nigeria U-19 team tour to Zimbabwe in preparation for the ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Namibia, March 2019
16. Nigeria wins division 1 Qualifier in Namibia to Qualify for 1st ever world cup in the Country’s history, March 2019
17. Nigeria wins ICC Country with the Best Cricket Development in Africa awards, April 2019
18. ICC Level 1 Coaching and Umpiring course held in Nigeria, April 2019.
19. ICC 360 Review program hosted by Nigeria, June 2019.
20. ICC T-20 World Cup Africa Qualifier in Uganda, July 2019.
21. N.C.F Partnership with PricewatwaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for the National U-17 Male and Female Championship, September 2019.
22. N.C.F participates in the return leg of the Bilateral series with Rwanda in Kigali, September 2019
23. ICC T-20 World Cup Qualifier in UAE, October 2019.
24. Participated at the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) U-16 Youth high Performance camp in Mumbai India, September 2019.
25. ICC 360 Review follow up, November 2019.
26. National U-19 team high performance tour to South Africa in Preparation for the U-19 World Cup, December 2019.
27. Nigeria U-19 ranked 3rd in Africa and 15th in the World
28. Nigeria Senior Men’s Team ranked 6th in Africa and 36th in the world among associate member nations
29. Nigeria Senior Women’s team ranked 9th in Africa and 36th in the World in Twenty20 ODI’s
30. Successful participation for the 1st time in the Country’s history at the ICC U-19 World Cup in South Africa, January 2020.
31. Maiden Edition of the Abuja Softball Cricket Championship. February 2020
32. Online webinar on Capacity building for Management, Staff and Players of the Federation.
33. 2 Tranche of Cash Palliative for National team players both Male and Female Categories to help cushion the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
34. 9 sessions of Webinar with Andy Atkinson of Cricket South Africa on Turf Pitch Construction and Facility Maintenance.
35. Webinar on Becoming a better umpire with international panel of discussants, conducted by the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers of Nigeria in Partnership with the Nigeria Cricket Federation.
36. Monthly Training and development Webinar with the ICC Regional Office.
37. Online series of remembering Our Heroes past in the game which is targeted at Veterans.
38. Began the Construction of the 2nd Turf Wicket pitch in Abuja and also Tafawa Balewa Square Oval in Lagos.
39. Online Training of Umpires and Scorers by the ACUSN in partnership with the Nigeria Cricket Federation.
40. Launching of the N.C.F online mobile Scoring Application powered by CricHeroes
41. Increase in employment of Staff as part of capacity building
This Present administration can look back and be proud of its achievements in the last 3 years, but will not rest on her oars as there is so much more to be done. It is popularly connoted that the reward of gook work is more work and that becomes the catalyst and inspiration for this present administration to achieve more. Leadership will come and go, politics will always be part of the game, and perhaps the greatest achievement so far will be the standard that has already been set by this administration in the overall development of the sport in the country. A clear road-map for growth and advancement has been laid down and anything short of this standard will be considered “unacceptable”. This we believe should erase any fears of the sport returning back to its dark days of donkey years past.
It is simple; you want to get the job done? “Put Square Pegs in Square Holes”.
MUSA EHIZOJE BODIE
PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER
NIGERIA CRICKET FEDERATION
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