Namibia’s golden generation ready to make waves after 18-year absence from the big stage

(SATSports) – It’s been 18 long years since Namibia featured at an ICC World Cup. If the current generation of players have anything to say about it, the Eagles are here to stay this time around.Gerhard Erasmus was only seven years old when Namibia last played in an ICC World Cup. Taking part in the 2003 Cricket World cup, they went winless across the six games.

You suspect they will fare better this time around, with the current generation of Namibian cricketers considered by many as their best yet. And while the class of 2003 may not have won a match at the Cricket World Cup, they inspired the generation that has come through.

A generation that plays team-first cricket and has no fears over the prospect of taking on the game’s best over the next month in their maiden ICC T20 World Cup campaign. 

“We’re really excited for it now, so imagine the night before,” Erasmus, the Namibia captain, said following the release of the tournament fixtures.

Eighteen years on from their global tournament debut, Namibia are firm contenders to make it out of a hyper-competitive First Round group that features Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Ireland.

The team’s recent rise to prominence can be traced back to the changes made in late 2018, following a disappointing World Cricket League 2 campaign, which saw them miss out on a spot at the Qualifier for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. 

Appointing former Leicestershire coach Pierre de Bruyn, and bringing former South African international Albie Morkel in as his assistant, Namibia re-grouped and won World Cricket League 2 in 2019 to attain ODI status. Full-time contracts ensued for the playing group, and a strong pool of national team players has formed a steely team culture akin to their Full Member foes.

In the middle of this top-to-bottom change in Namibian cricket, from the grassroots up to the high-performance levels, coach de Bruyn was still faced with difficult decisions when it came to finalising the squad for this month’s T20 World Cup. That is further testament to this generation’s quality. They come to the T20 World Cup not only with high hopes but the balance of an outfit capable of pushing on.

The same year they attained ODI status, the Namibians also qualified for the upcoming T20 World Cup. It was a bumpy ride with Erasmus’ side suffering an early stumble at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019, as they tasted defeats to the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in the group stage. But overall, the Eagles produced strong performances at the tournament, epitomising team-first cricket, with several players stepping up in key situations to ultimately achieve the objective: T20 World Cup qualification.

Winning a near do-or-die match-up against a heavily favoured Scotland outfit, Namibia pressed on with emphatic victories over Bermuda, Kenya and Singapore. Rocketing to third at the end of the round-robin phase, Namibia carried the momentum into the playoff stages, defeating Oman by 54 runs to book their ticket to the upcoming tournament.

Skipper Erasmus led from the front with the bat, making three half-centuries in the campaign, only bettered by Ireland’s Paul Stirling in terms of tournament runs. All-rounder JJ Smit struck 190 runs at a strike rate of 168, with the dependable Craig Williams and Stephen Baard providing valuable runs at the top.

With the ball, it was death by left-armers for Namibia’s adversaries. Smit and Jan Frylinck’s angles worked with great effect with the new ball, while the finger-spin of Bernard Scholtz suffocated opposing players in the middle overs, with his round-arm action leading to plenty of bowled and lbw dismissals.

Despite the retirements of Zhivago Groenewald and Jean-Pierre Kotze, Namibia’s team include a bulk of their squad from the qualifier. They are further bolstered by the inclusion of David Wiese, a former South African international now competing under the Namibian flag.

A domestic T20 maverick in recent years, Wiese last represented South Africa in 2016, taking 24 T20I wickets at an economy of 7.60 in 20 international matches. Striking at 143.52 across his T20 career, he’ll provide another headache for opponents in the final overs with both bat and ball.

Namibia’s squad has also seen an injection of youth. Leg-spinning all-rounder Nicol Loftie-Eaton is one young player to keep an eye on, while Michael van Lingen only made his international debut this month. Twenty-three-year-old Ruben Trumpelmann joins Smit and Frylinck in a left-arm trio of quicks, while off-spinner Mauritius Ngupita joins the team as a travelling reserve.

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