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‘As long as Namibia have me, I’ll keep coming back for them’

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David Wiese has batted his team to tense victories in the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League and the Vitality Blast. He has won trophies with some of those teams, like in the 2022 PSL, and has also lost a lot of matches playing for those teams. But over 15 years, he has played for long enough to know that’s how things go in multi-team tournaments. So why was he among the most devastated when Namibia failed to get over the line against UAE?

“As a cricketer, you play in all of these different tournaments but it’s always nice to have that home base. It’s always nice to have a team you can resonate with, a team that is close to your heart and a team that you know their heart is in the right place,” he said. “Being a tournament player, it’s quite often you’re in for four weeks and then out; and quite often about self preservation: you do well in that tournament, you get picked up in the next one. It’s a different story playing for your country. There is a pride playing for your country.”

Wiese is Namibian through his father, but was born in and spent the bulk of his career playing in neighbouring South Africa. It has been little more than a year since he made his debut for his new country but the Namibian players and their team environment have nuzzled their way into his heart. And home, they say, is where the heart is.

“The attachment I have got for these guys, they are such hard working guys, such good human beings, I just want the best for them. That’s just the main thing,” he said. “I always believe good things happen to good people and it’s a really good bunch of guys, good, hard-working lads. The most disappointing part is that for them, they wouldn’t get the opportunity to showcase their skills in the next round.”

That, and the extra USD $30,000 they would have received even if they did not win a single match at the Super12s.

This tournament is likely to be the most exposure their team will get in 2022, without any other televised matches; in fact, it is also the most they may get until 2024, when the next T20 World Cup rolls out.

Now that all of those hopes are gone, captain Gerhard Erasmus is not sure if the pain is about the money, the pride or something else altogether.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Erasmus said. “Last year we were at the other end of this. It’s tough to try to decipher in the last two games where it went wrong.”

In the immediate aftermath, with emotions running high, Erasmus can be forgiven for not wanting to analyse too much. When he does, he will see that it’s not that difficult to ascertain where Namibia fell short. Their top order failed to fire in each of the three games, without many runs on the board. They were 35 for 3 against Sri Lanka, 32 for 3 against Netherlands and 26 for 3 against UAE. All those scores put the middle order under pressure and exposed their over-reliance on the likes of Wiese and Jan Frylinck, who bailed them out successfully against Sri Lanka. Two more “rescue jobs,” as Erasmus put it, were always going to be unlikely.

What he wanted was for his team to play a “proper game of cricket,” which did not involve any get-out-of-jail style efforts but as Wiese reminded sometimes, “the games writes its own scripts,” despite the best-laid plans of the players.

“As a leader you want to start off well, play a proper game and win properly although that doesn’t always happen,” Erasmus said. “We stuck to it very nicely to try and put a good fight into both of those games. It speaks a lot to our culture and our way of playing. I’m really proud of that – of the guys, of the coaching staff and how we have responded in tough situations, But as a cricketer, you would have liked to play one proper game of cricket, skills wise, and take the two points and qualify.”

So what now for Namibia, who have sought external resources including hiring both Albie and Morne Morkel (as assistant coach and bowling consultant respectively) and were banking on being able to test themselves against the world’s best for the next three weeks?

“Often in tough situations like this is when you shape new great things to happen. I’ve seen many teams use some form of disappointment to recreate another phase of success for themselves. So, I really look forward to doing that with the team and look forward to doing that as a leader,” Erasmus said. “It’s very important for us, over the next four-months, to really nail our one-day cricket and get the maximum points in the one-day League. This disappointment should just really sort of spur us forward to more of that success. It’s not too long, and then there’s another T20 World Cup and great opportunities for the guys to play.”

Namibia play in the ICC’s Cricket World Cup League 2, where they lie in fifth place. The top three teams will advance to the 2023 ODI World Cup qualifying competition, which will take place in Zimbabwe next June. Two teams from that event will play at the 2023 World Cup. A more realistic goal for Namibia will be the 2024 T20 World Cup, an expanded tournament which will feature 20 teams. There are several routes for them to take to get there, including finishing in the top 12 on the rankings (they are currently 14th) or via a regional qualifier. Whichever it is, they are guaranteed one thing: Wiese wants to be part of their plans.

“There’s another World Cup in 2024 and that’s my next goal. I am still feeling good and playing as well as I ever have,” he said. “As long as they’ll have me, I will keep coming back for them.”

Wiese will be 39 when the next T20 World Cup takes place but maintains he is far from finished. “I’ve still got a lot of cricket left in me,” he said, pausing before adding. “For Namibia.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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