With less than a month to go before the start of the Pepsi International Cricket Council (ICC) Africa Division 1 tournament, preparations are going ahead for Botswana senior men’s Twenty 20 (T20) cricket team to compete at the games.
The tournament, which will be used as part of qualifiers for the Cricket World Cup, kicks off in Kampala, Uganda, on the 23rd of February next month.
During the tournament, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and hosts Uganda will battle it out in a bid to reach the Global qualifiers in Dubai with a view of making the World Cup finals. Botswana Cricket senior men’s team manager, Fazal Sheriff, said the senior team started its final preparations last Monday. A provisional team of 18 players, which will eventually be culled to 14 players, has reported for training, Sheriff said.
As a result of team members being tied up because of work, the training is not residential but the manager said there is a packed weekly training calendar that includes two days of gym sessions a week.
With the team due to play matches in successive days during the tournament, the plan is to ensure that the cricketers are physically primed for the rigors of the tournament, Sheriff said.
The Botswana Cricket Association in conjunction with the senior team’s technical team have arranged a T20 tournament locally to ensure the team gets maximum training.
Dubbed the Botswana ‘Thuntsha’ T20 League, the tournament will have five teams. They will comprise senior team players, the under-19 national team players, and the men’s senior team fringe players.
“What we have done is to distribute the senior team players among the five teams and add players to each team from the Under-19 and other fringe players to complete them,” Sheriff said. “These teams will then play against each other using the same format which will be used at the Uganda tournament to simulate the actual tournament.”
Apart from the local ‘Thuntsha’ tournament, they are also trying to arrange for the team to have friendly games against teams from outside the country.
“We would like to play some of the professional teams in South Africa as part of our preparations. Unfortunately, their league is still ongoing and it is difficult to find teams to play there,” Sheriff explained.
Meanwhile, the Botswana team manager said he is confident his team can make it into the top two teams and qualify for the global qualifiers.
“We are just 13 games away from the world cup and everything is possible. We will be going into the Uganda tournament as an unknown quantity and under dogs, which is a good factor and suits us fine as no country at the tournament knows us. We have nothing to lose,” Sheriff explained.
“Our priority going into the tournament will be first and foremost, to win it or come second to make the Global qualifiers. Should we not meet that goal, our second priority will be to maintain our status in the Africa Division 1 league,” he said.
Despite these goals, Sheriff was quick to point out that there is no pressure on the players. “They already know that when they put the Botswana shirt on, the country does not owe them, in fact they owe it to the country to represent it the best way they can. They always give their best,” he added.
The Botswana senior team is expected to fly out of the country for the tournament on the 22nd of next month and will be expected back once the tournament is ended on the 27th of the same month.