Women cricketers in Namibia are targeting qualification for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Australia as they look to develop the sport in the country.
T20 cricket for women is debuting in games in the English city of Birmingham this month, but budget constraints and the strength of competition made Namibia decide not to try for a place this year.
However, Namibia has traveled to Europe, with a number of matches ahead in Germany after a six-match streak against the Netherlands 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 is optimistic about their hopes for the coming years.
“The reason we didn’t go was financial,” he told BBC Sport Africa in the second half between back-to-back matches against the Netherlands at Voorburg cricket club in The Hague.
“We thought we weren’t ready for that yet. So the future is there and obviously we want to play in this kind of tournament.
“We just have to be very smart about how we approach this kind of thing.”
“It’s good to see that the Commonwealth has women’s cricket now, so I’m sure we’ll be there for the next qualifying rounds,” Namibia captain Erin van Zyl added.
The Capricorn Eagles, as the Namibia women’s team is known, did not have a place in the qualifiers for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which will be held next year in South Africa.
However, they are trying to capitalize on the wave of interest in cricket in Namibia to attract new players to their sport.
The men’s national team reached the T20 World Cup in a row and the country will be too Co-hosted the 2027 Men’s Cricket World Cup, One-day global show with South Africa and Zimbabwe.
This World Cup will bring new infrastructure and investment For a country that lacks stadiums, But it is also important to get the players involved in cricket.
The national team has a core of experienced but young players such as Sylvia Shipu, Wilka Muatel and Yasmin Khan, but there are currently not enough active cricketers to run a fully functional domestic game.
“We don’t have a regional squad at the moment, so what I do is I pick strong teams 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 kind of tournament, so we have to create that.”
The development of the women’s game in Namibia was boosted by the renewal of the sponsorship deal, and this support helped the team travel, both within their region and into Europe.
This, in turn, generates more interest from potential players.
“We’re growing,” van der Merwe added. “Over the last 18 months, our pipeline has grown 300 percent, so the numbers are starting to come in.
“The better this team performs, the youngsters will want to be a part of that.”
Skipper van Zyl agrees that the women’s game in her country is on the rise, with “hundreds of girls” playing.
“When we travel and do well, it just shows that there is something for women’s cricket – it’s not just a men’s game,” the 37-year-old said.
“What we do ultimately prepares the younger generation for the future to come.”
As they are targeting the next phase of their campaign to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, or even the World Cup, the atmosphere inside the camp is positive.
“There’s a lot of buzz in Namibia at the moment, so it’s a great place for cricket, both men and women,” said van der Merwe.
Namibia’s trip to Europe gives them another chance to play for teams outside their region and learn from different opponents.
The first game in the series against the Netherlands was abandoned, but the hosts clinched the series 3-2 after a narrow two-round win in Friday’s final.
The Netherlands, which is only one place behind Namibia in the women’s T20 world rankings, also benefited from the series.
“None of us play much,” captain Heather Seagers told the BBC.
“We don’t have any footage, we can’t analyze it – you just have to come in and do your best, and go accordingly.
“We can learn a lot from the way they handle their own stuff. It’s good to see what they do differently [in T20] With, say, their bowling alley – they bend the stump to the stump while we prefer pulling it out a little more.
“I think their style works better so I hope the girls pick it up and maybe change the way they play bowling.”
Both teams hope to continue to face each other more regularly – perhaps every two years – in both the Netherlands and Namibia.