The U-19 Cricket World Cup will see Nigeria, a very unlikely candidate, make its debut in the tournament. They are clubbed alongside traditional heavyweights, Australia, England and West Indies.

Though the concept of cricket has existed in Nigeria for a long time, it has only recently taken shape professionally. Football has always captured the imagination of the nation, with the likes of Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel and Ahmed Musa playing for reputed clubs in Europe.

So dominant was football in the sporting culture that cricket would never have been discovered if the Nigerian captain, Sylvester Okpe had not wandered off during Independence Day celebrations and randomly found a bunch of people playing with bat and ball.

The journey of the Nigerian team to the U-19 World Cup is very similar to that of the Bollywood flick, Lagaan. Most members of the team did not know about the sport and had naturally not played it before being picked for the side.

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Many of them did not possess the proper kits or equipment to play the game and did not receive much support from the families or teachers, who saw the game as an excuse for kids to bunk classes.

Okpe was only 15 years old when he came into the U-19 side and was made captain at the tender age of 16. However, age was no barrier for the performance he delivered in that famous win against Namibia in the opening fixture of the qualifying game for the U-19 World Cup.

Batting first, Nigeria managed to put up only 129-8 in their 50 overs against a side whose senior side have played at the World Cup. However, that stature did not deter Okpe. He picked 3-16 dismissed Namibia for only 77, giving Nigeria a huge shot in the arm as they stunned everyone with their incredible progress.

Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @GhesheS