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Baard holds the key for Namibia

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 8:52 AM

Namibia captain Steven Baard has embraced the underdog tag for this month's ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012 in Queensland.

The African minnows have been drawn in arguably the tournament's group of death, the only pool which features three Test nations - Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and neighbours South Africa.

But 20-year-old Baard, who scored 45 off 22 balls in his first-class debut at just 17 years of age, wants Namibia to throw the cat among the pigeons.

"We want to upset one or two of the Test nations," Baard declared.

"Our number one goal is trying to get into the super eights. And it's always nice being in the underdog position.

"The guys are going to work hard and we know it's going to be tough, but we're looking forward to it."

The humble Baard, who is a batting all-rounder but admittedly a 'wobbler' with the ball, is squarely the reason why Namibia are at this tournament.

In their do-or-die ICC U19 CWC qualifier in 2011 against Kenya last August, his country needed not just a win, but a big one - and for other results to go their way - just to make it to Queensland.

Baard's coach wanted the skipper to lead from the front, and he did just that with a stunning knock of 89 off 93 deliveries that earned him man of the match honours and sealed Namibia's passage as the sixth-placed qualifier.

"It was a bit of a pressure situation," he said.

"The coach spoke to me before and said he wanted the captain to lead from the front, especially with the bat - we hadn't had one of the best tournaments with the bat.

"It was just putting the head down and working hard, extra concentration and all of that.

"It went down well, just one of those days where everything hits the middle of the bat.

"It was a great celebration afterwards, I'll say that, especially knowing that at one stage we were out. The flight back is always a lot better when you win.

"For Namibia, it's a massive thing to be here. Guys like this don't often play in tournaments like these.

"It's a totally different team to what we normally have but some of these guys also play first class in South Africa. They just keep getting better and better.

"It was hard work building up to here, but the future is bright for Namibian cricket."

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