Namibia’s senior cricket team, affectionately known as the Eagles, are ready to cause an upset as they start their T20 World Cup campaign against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this afternoon.
Namibia is in Group A with Sri Lanka, The Netherlands and Ireland in their first-ever T20 World Cup, ending nearly two decades in the elite cricketing wilderness since appearing in the 50-overs’ showpiece in 2003.
Sri Lanka won the 2014 edition of the tournament. Namibian captain Gerhard Erasmus, who was just seven years old when Namibia last played in the World Cup, told cricinfo that during their sending off, 2003 World Cup captain Deon Kotze branded the team better than theirs, which is a great honour.
“Those are individuals we looked up to, and guys who sparked something for us. They drew a line in the sand back then, and 18 years later, although it’s too long for Cricket Namibia’s liking, we are back at it and hopefully we can continue,” Erasmus enthused.
The Eagles will play their second group game against The Netherlands on Wednesday, before they face Ireland on Friday.
Coach Pierre de Bruyn said his players are determined to upset the odds by finishing in the top two in their first-round group in order to qualify for the Super 12 phase.
“The impact for Namibian cricket would be massive. It means automatic qualification for next year’s T20 World Cup and the financial benefit that comes with it,” he told cricfrenzy.com.
Namibia had an intensive build-up of matches, with series wins over Uganda, South Africa and the Zimbabwe Emerging team, and two South African franchise sides - the Titans and the Knights. They also won four warm-up matches against other second-tier teams since arriving in Dubai for the T20 showpiece.
The 2021 T20 World Cup will be held in two phases, with eight teams battling it out in the first round for four slots in the Super 12, which will be the main event of the tournament.
Namibia - Gerhard Erasmus (c), Stephen Baard, Karl Birkenstock, Michau du Preez, Jan Frylinck, Zane Green, Nicol Lofie-Eaton, Bernard Scholtz, Ben Shikongo, JJ Smit, Ruben Trumpelmann, Michael van Lingen, David Wiese, Craig Williams and Pikky Ya France.
Sri Lanka - Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando.