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Home / Personality of the week - Craig Williams: Our World Cup performance inspired the nation

Personality of the week - Craig Williams: Our World Cup performance inspired the nation

2021-11-11  Maurice Kambukwe

Personality of the week - Craig Williams: Our World Cup performance inspired the nation
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Date of birth: 25 February 1984

Place of birth: Oshakati

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right arm medium

Playing role: Top-order batter

 

In an exclusive chat with cricket.com, Namibian veteran batsman Craig Williams – Namibia’s second-highest run-getter in T20Is – spoke about the team’s journey into the Super 12s, skipper Gerhard Erasmus, on the commendable job the coaching staff has done, among other topics. It took years of hard work, toil and sweat for Namibia to make it to the World Cup, and they did more than just to make up the numbers.

 

It was an emotional moment when David Wiese hit those winning runs against Ireland. Walk us through the emotions in the middle and the dressing room when that moment arrived?

It was extremely emotional for the whole team. It’s been a three-year process since coach Pierre de Bruyn and assistant coach Albie Morkel joined us in rebuilding and getting new things in place. The moment was fantastic, but I think the emotion came from the amount of work that has gone in the last three years: the number of sacrifices, early hours in the gym, weekends of play and long trips away from home. All came together when we realised, we’ve done something extremely special for the country.

 

What did it mean for Namibian cricket to make it to the Super 12s? Would you rate this as the best moment in your career?

I definitely rate this as the highlight of my career. I’ve been playing for 13-14 years, and it is by far the biggest highlight. I’ve been to more than 15 similar types of qualifiers – and this is the first one we’ve managed to pull through, which just shows how hard the competition is. I think, for Namibia, it’s just fantastic because, now, all of our kids can believe that hard work pays off, and it is possible to achieve their dreams and goals. For cricket in Namibia and sport in Namibia, this is just a fantastic achievement for the country, and it is definitely something that’s going to boost all sports in the country moving forward.

 

Tell me about this journey – right from the qualifiers and making it to the top 12 teams in the World Cup – how would you sum it up?

The journey started when we travelled to Uganda in 2018. We then went to Dubai for a month to play against 24 countries, out of which only eight went through. That was extremely difficult and everyone was fighting for those four places to get to the World Cup. Just qualifying to that qualifier was really hugely an emotional experience. Then having to come to another qualifier at the World Cup and qualifying for the main tournament – it has been a two-year process, two-emotional roller-coaster events that are very difficult to describe. 

It’s been a two-year process. I’m glad we’ve managed to get this far because, now, we go straight to the next World Cup. We skip a whole lot of qualifiers and a whole lot of stress. In a country like Namibia, we’re not fully professional, so to have guys who are working and studying and still trying to be professional cricket players is an unbelievable story – an unbelievable achievement.

 

Some teams like the Netherlands have struggled to find form due to the lack of T20 cricket since the qualifiers in 2019. Even Namibia have had limited game time before the T20 World Cup. How did you and the rest of the team cope with it and put on a commendable performance in the tournament?

We probably have not had as many games as we would have liked. That’s what the Netherlands struggled with, but we have never stopped training. Even during the lockdown, we would be doing coaching sessions on Zoom with our coaching staff. We did backyard cricket training, where you had to post your batting and bowling. 

The coaches were able to look at our technique from Zoom calls. It’s been tough preparing in Covid times, but we didn’t stop. You just take your hat off to the coaching staff that they were able to think outside the box. How they were able to find ways to keep us on our toes. We’ve played five series, though, which was fantastic, as the guys were able to organise games for us. Our preparations were extremely good, compared to maybe some of the other countries like the Netherlands.

 

You batted at three in the first couple of matches but opened in the game against Ireland. You have been juggled quite often in the batting line-up. Is that something you are comfortable with? How do you deal with all the shuffling?

In T20 cricket, you have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to play different roles. As one of the senior players, I don’t mind being moved around. I am happy to open, to bat at three or to carry drinks as 12th man. 

The whole team has got that attitude that as conditions change and as the opposition changes, we also need to adapt. I’m just happy to be able to contribute – to still be able to play. So, I’m comfortable with any tactics or plans the coaches need on any given day.

 

We’ve seen what a talented batsman Gerhard Erasmus is, but what would you say he is as a leader?

Gerhard, as our captain, has been extremely good for the team. He’s a leader. He has led a lot of different teams. He was captain at Maties (Stellenbosch University) when he was in university. He was the captain of the U/19 Namibian team. So, it’s not anything new for him to be a leader. The way he manages guys and leads by example is fantastic. He’s a natural. 

When the pressure is on, he manages to step up and show everybody why he is in that position. We are blessed as a team and a country to have someone like him. They are one in a million. They don’t just come around every single day. He is still young. He’s still got another 10-12 years of playing for Namibia, of leading Namibia, to keep breaking records and taking us to the next level.

 

David Wiese has put up a couple of match-winning performances in the tournament. How important was it for Namibia to rope in someone of his experience?

David has been fantastic for the team; he has played around the world, and he showed that when the pressure is on, he really steps up. It’s been fantastic to have someone of his calibre join our team. 

He is proud to be playing for Namibia and to be doing well for us. Players travel, go to different countries, look for opportunities and we’re just fortunate to have a Namibian like David come back and join us. I know it’s been in his plan for a long time to come play for Namibia – and with Covid-19, it delayed the process for two years. It’s fantastic to have him as part of our squad and to have his experience with our next generation learning from someone like him. 

 

Ever since Pierre de Bruyn took over as head coach, it has been onwards and upwards for Namibia. How has it been working with him over the last two years or so?

Pierre is a world-class coach. He’s got a huge pedigree. He coached for a long time in South Africa. He played first-class cricket himself for 18 years. He knows what it’s all about. You can relate to him as a player because he played at a very high level himself. He came to Namibia and made us believe in ourselves. He brought in a new culture of respecting each other, respecting the game – and that’s made a big difference. From a coaching perspective, he knows how to handle and treat players because he has been in our shoes.

He is brilliant at managing different situations; different types of players. He is always thinking of new ways to make us better. To think what it took Namibia when he came in two and a half years ago to where we are now, it’s a true attribute to how good he is and how he can take such a small team and achieve greatness. I don’t think there is enough said about how good this guy is as a coach. He has brought Albie Morkel along with him. Albie is Mr Cool under pressure situations because he has played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also for South Africa. He can relate and help us handle those situations. 

 

Tell me a bit about your cricketing journey. What and who drew you towards the game growing up?

I was born in Namibia and grew up in Pretoria. At the age of six, in Pretoria, watching the greats playback in the day, I just loved their game. I wanted to be a professional cricket player for as long as I can remember. I didn’t want to sit in an office; I wanted to be out in the field, play and compete. 

Namibia gave me those opportunities. I moved to Namibia when I was 23, after spending some time in the UK, playing cricket. Namibia gave me the opportunity to play first-class cricket and to live my dream. There’s a lot of hard work and lots of disappointments; many qualifiers didn’t make it to get to where we are now. Every single day, just appreciate the opportunities we have been granted – and hard work does really pay off. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt. 

Namibia is a beautiful country. Our people have been through so much with drought, Covid, fires and recessions. This is just a beautiful story of how this small group of people have been able to compete with the giants. We hope all the people back home can just realise that dreams do come true.

- www.cricket.com


2021-11-11  Maurice Kambukwe

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