Cricket Namibia (CN) have a clear strategy to become a force in world cricket: follow the money. Not only is it paying off, but it has led them to this year’s Twenty20 World Cup.
Namibia kicks off their campaign against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Monday, ending nearly two decades in the elite cricketing wilderness since appearing in the 50-overs showpiece in 2003.
“We are in a very strong pool with Ireland, Netherlands and Sri Lanka but we’re definitely going there with the mindset of, ‘We are going to cause an upset’,” CN chief executive officer, Johan Muller, told Reuters.
“(If we) qualify for the second phase of the World Cup and automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Australia, that’ll be our pinnacle, that is what we aim for.”
The team’s T20 record stands at 18-4 over the last couple of years, bolstered by wins against Botswana, Uganda and other minnows.
Lack of high-quality fixtures is a perennial problem facing emerging teams, but Muller explained that for his side to achieve better outcomes they need a strong financial footing.
Until 2018, Namibia paid Cricket South Africa to compete in their senior provincial league. Withdrawing was a major cost-saver.
“We made a conscious decision,” he remarked, “to move out of three-day cricket and completely leave any red-ball cricket.
“White-ball cricket will get us into higher-level worldwide competitions.”
Namibia has also been aggressive in pursuit of increased annual International Cricket Council grants, buoyed by their T20 World Cup qualification and their reclaimed one-day international status in 2019.
“Prior to ODI status we would receive about $500,000 to $550,000 USD … (then) it moved slightly up to about $1.1 million.
“If we perform well (in ICC World Cricket League Division 2) … we qualify for another three years of sustainable funding.”
CN even set up a production team so that home matches could be sold to broadcasters in the lucrative Indian market and Africa too.
“About 10% of our income is generated from the local sponsorship market,” Muller said.
To keep performing at a high level, especially in ICC events that unlock additional funding, the board’s next challenge is creating a consistent pipeline of future players in the sparse nation of 2.5 million people.
“It’s a country that’s reliant on farming and tourism as economic drivers, so sport overall has not been seen as an avenue to create any sort of a job opportunity.”
CN is banking on that perception changing.