They now sit third in the I-Cup table with a winnable fixture against the UAE and a decisive fixture against second place Afghanistan remaining to be played. They could conceivably win the tournament, or at the very least finish second behind Ireland. In the recent World Twenty20 Qualifier, Namibia also put in a startling performance to finish third, stranded just one win away from the global stage. These impressive shows cannot be co-incidence. Namibia’s formula relies on three key points:
There is no real substitute for ability. You could give Chris Martin a lifetime of batting coaching, but he’d still be Chris Martin. However, in their arsenal Namibia can call on: Craig Williams, averaging forty in First Class cricket with thirteen centuries to his name; Ray van Schoor, the clean hitting batsman who is comfortable anywhere in the top six, the accomplished gloveman and the off-spinner whose tight line and length was so important in the Qualifier; Gerrie Snyman who in consecutive List A innings once hit 60 not out from 35, 98 from 74, 158 not out from 114 and 196 from 113; Louis van der Weisthuizen, who boasts a T20 strike rate of over 150; and Christi Viljoen whose wrong-footed swing bowling brings him wickets on demand. They form the nucleus of a very strong team at any level.
The recently concluded I-Cup game featured four Namibians aged 22 or under. Unlike some Associate teams, they do not flog ageing players to keep playing into their forties, and they do not rely on importing talent. Instead, they grow their own young players and give them plenty of opportunities, such as Pikky Ya France, who has struggled for runs, but has always been willing to fight for runs. His temperament has impressed the selectors who have shown unwavering support for him.
After their disastrous 2003 World Cup, it would have been easy for Namibia to have retreated from the big stage, and taken the Bermudian route which saw the island nation slide from ODI status in 2009 to losing the opportunity to even play List A cricket in 2011. Instead, Namibia joined the CSA Provincial League in South Africa, playing First Class, List A and Twenty20 matches against teams such as Border, Boland and Free State. Rather than massaging their bruised egos and trying to beat arguably weak teams, they have given opportunities to all of their young talents, such as Ya France who has 25 First Class caps to his name aged just 22, which is more than any of the Dutch side except Tom Cooper. By playing these young players in the Provincial system, they gain experience of First Class cricket. Experience is always important. Experience is where the grit comes from in the Namibian side, the resilience to fight back from 53 for four and 157 for one. The core of players that Namibia use will have faced such situations ten, twenty times before. When the tides turned, the Dutch team could not match the Africans’ experience and knowledge of their own games.
We must complement South Africa, though, for showing support to the Namibians. Could you really see England letting Scotland play in the second division of the Championship? Would Oman, the UAE and Afghanistan be welcome in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, or Nepal in the Ranji Trophy, or PNG in the Plunket Shield? The most viable of those candidates would be Nepal, the land where national Under-17 matches are televised live, and attract thousands of spectators. It looks like Namibia are heading in the right direction to be the next Ireland, but could Nepal be the next Namibia?