Teams from Afghanistan and Namibia are all set to fight it out for the four-day International Cricket Council (ICC) Intercontinental Cup at the Greater Noida Cricket Stadium from Sunday.
According to a senior official of the Greater Noida authority, cricket matches from April 10-13, between two foreign teams, will attract a good crowd.
Players from Afghanistan have a number of local fans here since they have been playing cricket in the Greater Noida stadium since December 2015, when they made it their official home ground. On December 11, 2015, the Greater Noida authority had signed an agreement with the BCCI and the Afghanistan Cricket Board. The first one-day match between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in Greater Noida on December 13 had attracted a large crowd of cricket fans.
According to a senior ICC official, the current match is crucial for the two teams because their performance will impact the ICC rankings. Afghanistan currently holds the fifth place with 21 points, while Namibia is in the seventh place with 20 points.
There is another strong reason for the Indian fans to rejoice over the match this time. Former Indian cricketer Venkatapathy Raju is coaching Afghanistan coaches at the Greater Noida stadium.
“I want Afghanistan to give its best and improve its performance to improve their ranking. It is a wonderful experience to coach at the stadium. This is the first time I have visited this city and I am in love with it. The city boasts of wide roads and a lot of green spaces,” Raju said.
The other Indian connect is Namibia’s team coach Dayanand Thakur. Dayanand’s grandfather Ram Charan had migrated to Gayana from India in the 1920s. He is confident that Namibia will perform well and improve the team ranking.
“This is the first time I am visiting India and I feel so emotional. My grandfather was from here. I hope Indian fans will cheer for our team too,” said Thakur, who played for Namibia in 1997 as an opening batsman. He said that 20% of the population, of the 2.1 million people in Namibia, is of Indian origin.
“Since soccer and rugby are the popular sports, finding 15 cricketers is a struggle in Namibia,” said Dayanand.
“There is no money in cricket in our country. Cricketers have to work part time for livelihood unlike India where cricketers earn a decent amount,” said Gerrie Snymin, 34, Namibia player, who had played 2003 World cup against India. When not playing cricket, Snymin works with a realty firm.
Five Namibia cricketers did not come to India to play against Afghanistan because they could not afford a long leave from their offices.
“I have somehow managed three weeks leave for the tournament. I took leave because I am passionate about cricket. I earn more from my job than I earn while playing,” said Christpher Coombe, an all rounder in Namibia team. Coombe works as a full time statistician.