Nigeria’s quest for a first appearance at the ICC T20 World Cup begins on Thursday (today) in Namibia where the Yellow Greens will take on Kenya in their first game of the 2024 World Cup qualifiers.
The 2024 tournament is billed for the United States and the West Indies from June 4 to 30 with the top-two teams from the series joining South Africa and 13 other countries at the World Cup. Other teams in the series are hosts Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Today’s game will be the seventh meeting between both countries since 2019 and the East Africans lead the head-to-head with five wins to Nigeria’s one.
However, it’s been two years since they last met and the Yellow Greens have made tremendous improvement under Kenyan coach and high-performance manager of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, Steve Tikolo.
Leading Nigeria against his home country, the former Kenyan World Cup star stressed that emotions won’t get in the way of his job.
“I am the head coach and high-performance manager of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, and in case my team is playing against Kenya, I would treat Kenya as my opponent. That’s the nature of sports or any competition,” Tikolo told our correspondent in a recent chat.
Nigeria’s team is captained by Sylvester Okpe who led the U-19 boys to the 2019 World Cup in South Africa. Other members of the team include; Peter Aho, Ademola Onikoyi, Sesan Adedeji, Sulaimon Runsewe, Prosper Useni, Chiemelie Udekwe, Ridwan Kareem, Isaac Okpe, Daniel Ajekun, Isaac Danladi, Taiwo Mohammed, Joshua Asia, Akhere Isesele and Ashmit Shrestha.
In their build-up to the qualifiers, the Yellow Greens won the maiden West Africa Trophy with a perfect record of 10 wins in 10 games just as they edged Rhinos Cricket Club of Zimbabwe 3-2 during the final phase of their preparations.
“It’s really exciting and good for us, helping us as a team to be where we need to be ahead of the qualifiers. It’s been a really good outing for us to make sure we have a good outing in Namibia,” Okpe told our correspondent.
After facing Kenya today, Nigeria will take on Rwanda in their second game on Friday, before they return on Sunday to take on Tanzania.
Uganda, Zimbabwe and Namibia will be Nigeria’s next fixture in the second week of the tournament, where Nigeria would be hoping to make the best of their first major outing in the last two years.