Namibia's women hope for T20 cricket spot at 2026 Commonwealth Games

1 month ago 357
Namibia in action against the NetherlandsNamibia suffered a 3-2 T20 series defeat against hosts The Netherlands last week

Namibia's female cricketers are targeting qualification for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Australia as they look to develop the sport in the country.

Women's T20 cricket is making its Games debut in the English city of Birmingham this month, but budget constraints and the strength of the competition meant Namibia decided not to try for a place this year.

However, Namibia have travelled to Europe, with a number of upcoming games in Germany following a six-match series against the Netherlands which concluded last week.

Coach Francois van der Merwe said a bid for Birmingham would have been a waste of resources given the current level of the game in Namibia, but he is optimistic about their hopes for future years.

"The reason why we didn't go was a financial thing," he told BBC Sport Africa in the break between back-to-back matches against the Netherlands at the Voorburg Cricket Club in The Hague.

"We thought, we aren't ready for that yet. So the future's there and obviously we want to play in these sort of tournaments.

"We've just got to be very clever how we approach these sort of things."

Namibia captain Irene van Zyl added: "It's good to see that the Commonwealth has included women's cricket now, so I'm pretty sure in the next qualification rounds we're going to be there."

Surge in interest

Namibia captain Irene van Zyl (right) walks out with against the NetherlandsNamibia captain Irene van Zyl (right) believes the women's game in her country is "on the up"

The Capricorn Eagles, as Namibia's women side are known, narrowly missed out on a place in global qualifying for the 2023 Women's T20 World Cup, which will be held next year in South Africa.

However, they are trying to capitalise on a wave of interest in cricket in Namibia to attract new players to their sport.

The men's national side have reached successive T20 World Cups and the country will also co-host the 2027 men's Cricket World Cup, the one-day global showpiece, with South Africa and Zimbabwe.

That World Cup will bring new infrastructure and investment to a country short on pitches, but it is just as important is to bring players into cricket.

The national team has a core of experienced but youthful players, such as Sylvia Shihepo, Wilka Mwatile and Yasmeen Khan, but there are not currently enough active cricketers to run a fully functioning domestic game.

"We don't really have a provincial set-up at the moment, so what I do is I pick strong squads and they compete against each other," coach van der Merwe said.

"It's about the numbers. If you don't have the numbers, you can't have that type of tournament, so we have to create that."

The development of the women's game in Namibia has been boosted by the renewal of a sponsorship deal, and that support has helped the team travel, both within their region and to Europe.

In turn, that generates greater interest from potential players.

"We're growing," van der Merwe added. "Over the last 18 months, our pipeline has grown by 300 percent, so the numbers are coming on board.

"The better this national team will do, youngsters will want to be part of that."

Skipper van Zyl agrees says the women's game in her country is on the up, with "hundreds of girls playing".

"With us travelling, and doing well, it just shows there is something for women's cricket - it's not just the men's game," the 37-year-old said.

"What we do ultimately prepares the younger generation for the future to come."

As they target the next stage of their campaign to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, or even a World Cup, the atmosphere within the camp is positive.

"There's quite a hype in Namibia at the moment, so it's a great place to be for cricket, men and women", van der Merwe said.

Unfamiliar opponents

Irene van Zyl appeals for a wicket against the NetherlandsIrene van Zyl scored 35 runs and picked up two wickets in the series against the Netherlands

Namibia's trip to Europe gives them another chance to play teams from outside their region and learn from different opposition.

The first match of the series against the Netherlands was abandoned, but the hosts took the series 3-2 after a narrow two-run win in the final match on Friday.

The Dutch, who are ranked one place below Namibia in the global women's T20 standings, also benefitted from the series.

"Neither of us get to play a lot," home captain Heather Siegers told the BBC.

"We don't have any footage, we can't analyse - you just turn up and do your best, and go according to that.

"We can learn a lot from how they go about their things. It's good to see what they do different [in T20] with, for example, their bowling - they bowl stump to stump whereas we prefer to drag it a bit more outside.

"I think their approach works better so I hope the girls pick it up and maybe change how they go about their bowling."

The hope from both teams is to continue to face each other more regularly - perhaps every couple of years - both in the Netherlands and in Namibia.

Namibia women take on Netherlands in The HagueThe Voorburg Cricket Club in The Hague could play host to more matches between the Netherlands and Namibia in the future
Source Article