Cricket is (arguably) the world’s second biggest sport, and now it’s big business. The major cricket countries contain nearly 2 billion people; the TV rights for the Indian Premier League just sold for $2.5 billion; and a billion sports fans reportedly watched a recent India-Pakistan match in the World Cup.
But Nigeria is missing from the gentleman’s sport.
Cricket has been played in Nigeria since the late 19th century when the game was introduced by the British. Contacts between the administration in Lagos and their counterparts in Gold Coast (now Ghana) led to an international on 25 May 1904, the Gold Coast winning by 22 runs.
The Nigeria national cricket team is the team that represents the country of Nigeria in international cricket. Cricket has been played in the country since the late 19th century, and the national team played their first match in 1904, when a team representing the Lagos Colony played the Gold Coast Colony.
The Nigeria Cricket Association has been an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2002.
In April 2018, the ICC decided to grant full Twenty20 International (T20I) status to all its members. Therefore, all Twenty20 matches played between Nigeria and other ICC members after 1 January 2019 will be a full T20I.
Nigeria’s first T20I match is scheduled to be against Kenya on 20 May 2019, after finishing second in the North-Western sub-region qualification group, advancing to the Regional Final of the 2018–19 ICC World Twenty20 Africa Qualifier tournament.
When do more than a billion people tune in to a sports match of middling tournament importance?
Yet Nigeria is missing when India plays Pakistan in the men’s Cricket World Cup. Cricket is closer to a religion than a sport in swaths of South Asia, and face-offs between these bitter neighbors are often more like a geopolitical event than a game.
Only 12 countries play in cricket’s top echelon, but huge, fervent fan bases in India (1.35 billion people), Pakistan (212 million), and Bangladesh (161 million) help make it the world’s second-most popular sport, at least when India has a big match.
Cricket traveled via the British Empire, and its history is unsurprisingly stuffy. As recently as 1962, England divided cricketers between upper-class “gentlemen,” who were unpaid, and working-class “players,” who were paid but often treated like servants.