There’s a great parallel between the historic Sierra Leonean city of Freetown and the great game of cricket. And you may simply wonder how?
Way back in the day, Freetown offered solace and refuge to the enslaved and the troubled who’d returned to their homeland in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, to be precise. Likewise, the still developing West African country sees many a youth taking to sport to find refuge from the ensuing economic trouble.
Cricket, therefore, is as ubiquitous in the land as is its long-standing desire of achieving a middle-income status by 2035, a great ambition whose progress was slowered sadly due to the outcome of Ebola in 2014.
But there’s something about Sierra Leone; its youth never gives up. Sahr Senesie, Alhassan Bangura, Sheriff Suma, Rodney Strasser among the many are leading examples where the country has given back the world shining examples of athleticism despite (often) being internally ruptured.
And among this bandwagon of youth is one George Edward Ngegba. He cannot be found on the track field for a 200 meter event. He’s not on the football pitch scoring goals. Nor is he a javelin thrower.
George Edward Ngegba is perhaps to cricket in a sport-obsessed Sierra Leone what Mario Kart is to Nintendo, what oil on canvas is to any affluent painter or what a toe-crushing bouncer is to a searing fast bowler.
Yet to turn 20, but with big dreams and big records in the domestic stage already, George Edward Ngegba is already one of the widely documented and famously covered cricketers of his country.
And truth be told, 2022, which is still at halfway stage, is just as much about George Edward Ngegba as it’s about the often-in-news Indian team, the Women’s World Cup, the arrival of the 6ixty, the return to form of Shai Hope in ODI’s, and the exciting brand of cricket the Netherlands are playing.
But how’s that?
A few weeks ago, George, the all-rounder Sierra Leone are truly blessed to have, notched up his 150th wicket in domestic cricket.
This was no mean feat; in doing so, the right-handed batsman and frequently wicket-taking off spinner became the first from his country to breach the milestone.
While those of us who still wallow in phrases like ‘mainstream’ cricket and allude unfailingly to the fact that there’s also a cricket that features the ‘other’ teams, June 5, 2022 may not have held much of a value.
Most of us may even have been preoccupied with the West Indies playing the Dutch on June 4, 2022, which marked their final (3rd) one-day international.
Though, for George Edward Ngegba it’s what happened in the next 24 hours that’ll forever matter.
On June 5, the lanky cricketer took his 150th wicket whilst playing against the Sierra Leone Provisional Under-19 squad in the Sierra Leone One Day Domestic aka the ODD. It was a feat well noted by the Sierra Leone Cricket Association, also dubbed as the SLCA in local media.
But it’s the pure statistical amazement of what George’s managed in such a young (and growing) journey that leaves you with a smile, provided you care to meander outside of teams that habitually inhabit your mind: England, Australia, India!
Matches played? 95. Wickets taken? 156!
His cricketing quotient? Beyond the measure of any calculator, truth be told? His dreams? Big like his burly records.
That is the truth.
When Caught At Point spoke to him about the biggest challenge of being the first in his country to 150 wickets, George Edward Ngegba replied mellow as ever, “The biggest challenge has always been to maintain at the top with consistent performances.”
These stats may be purely domestic. But they offer those sitting in key, definitive international administrations blessed with deep coffers to chart careers and hence transform destinies, lots to think.
Can they step up and reach cricketers in countries like Sierra Leone, which given cricket’s modus operandi of expanding its global footprint, are no longer far-reaching?
Can a George Edward Ngegba, hypothetically speaking, reach the IPL some day or will the cash rich BCCI-backed league only remain exclusive to only prominent countries with noticeable international footprint?
Unfortunately, that’s something the fan has no say in, but the administrators of this dear sport most certainly do.