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Ofem expects Africa Div 1 to be too close to call

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 5:10 PM

Ofem expects Africa Div 1 to be too close to call
Nigeria captain, Endurance Ofem
Nigeria captain Edurance Ofem expects the upcoming ICC Africa Division 1 T20 championship to be too close to call.

Ofem leads Nigeria after helping the side qualify through a tough ICC Africa Division 2 T20 Championship (held in South Africa), alongside Ghana. Nigeria topped the points table at this event held in South Africa.

Ofem now leads his side at the ICC Africa Division 1 T20 Championship which will be held in Entebbe, Uganda from 9-15 July.

The other teams participating in the tournament are Zimbabwe A, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Ghana.

"The last time we played any of Uganda, Kenya and Namibia was between 2002 and 2004. We played Ghana at the last event (Africa Division 2). I must say, it's about one guy getting in and we might just see surprises. Kenya is re-building, so there is a lot to play for the players. Uganda has lost a few players, but they have done well at the World Cricket League Division 2. Namibia has built around so many experienced players. I would say it is expected to be an interesting call," said Ofem.

Nigeria captain is banking on the experience gained from the hard grind the team went through in the Africa Division 2 and World Cricket League Division 7 in Botswana. Nigeria finished runners-up in Botswana.

"The tournaments in South Africa and Botswana were a big advantage, as they gave us an idea of what is expected of us in a T20 tournament. It was a good experience coming up against sides like Tanzania and Botswana, not leaving out Ghana," added Ofem.

The one player to look out for in the Nigeria squad, according to Ofem, is fast bowler Saheed Akolade.

With so much experience playing together as a squad behind them, Ofem believes the side has tuned up well.

"The team got together again last weekend to assess our last campaign in South Africa and discuss the way forward, after a long and well deserved break. We will be getting together again this weekend to continue the needed touch of hard work required at this level. We look forward to an early departure to give us an idea of what conditions are like," informed Ofem.

The need to travel early to Uganda, according to Ofem, is because Nigeria has not played in Uganda for nearly a decade.

"The last time we played in Uganda was in 2001. Things have changed since then, but I know the pitches and grounds remain the same. The conditions should not be of much worry to us now. We expect it to be a bit cold around July, but I guess, playing in South Africa and Botswana in May did help us in this regard," said Ofem.

Nigeria captain expects the team to gear up to the challenge of facing tougher teams.

"It will be the biggest tournament we are competing in considering the opposition. The last time we played Uganda and Namibia was in the ACA Cup in 2002 and this will be the first time we will be competing against Kenya at this level. We have played their development sides before and I still recollect a few names. Knowing these teams, they will be putting up their best sides against us. Ghana, as an emerging nation cannot be written off and so we are looking forward to a big tournament. But it's the shorter format, so anything can happen," summed up Ofem.

The big dream for the Nigeria squad is still to qualify for ICC World Twenty20 2012.

"It is very impossible to quantify the dreams of getting to the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka next year, but I must say it's still a long way ahead."

Ofem thanks the International Cricket Council (ICC) for offering all teams an opportunity to realise the dream of making it to the ICC World Twenty20 through a well structured qualifying process.

"I would call this a 'transparent structure'. Every young cricketer, everywhere in the world, would be looking forward to such an opportunity to compete at the World Twenty20 someday. What this means is clear 'walk through the ladder'," concluded Ofem.

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