By Tayo Ogunseye
It was a day filled with smiles and excitement as the Nigerian cricket family celebrated the remodelled turf wicket of the Tafawa Balewa Square Cricket Oval in Lagos over the weekend.
The TBS Oval which is the nation’s traditional home of cricket was shut for 18 months as it was upgraded from concrete bowling strips to grass.
The concrete strips create a different ball behaviour from what grass strips produce and this according to experts, has been a huge hindrance for Nigerian teams at international competitions.
The immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode joined Chairman of the occasion Professor Giwa Bello-Osagie for the commissioning of the turf wicket.
Giwa-Osagie. While commissioning the turf wickets challenged cricketers and stakeholders to pull resources together to further the growth of the game.
“I am glad at the level of development that this ground has undergone. This ground hold a lot of memories and mean much to the history of Nigeria and cricket.”
Governor Ambode said the game of cricket is capable of helping instill discipline and critical life skills in the youth.
“I think critical to success in any endeavor in life are the soft skills that the game of cricket teaches and we are very happy at the recent uptick in the development of the cricket. This turf wicket compliments all the effort of the administration in growing the game and I believe we would in no time feel its impact.”
President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, Uyi Akpata, added that the facility upgrade has increased the number of top flight cricket grounds in the country to seven in just one year that the federation commenced the project.
“Facility upgrade scores very high on our agenda and the TBS is very critical in that sphere as it is Nigeria’s frontline facility.”
Akpata says that this easily puts Lagos on the map with two top facilities capable of hosting world class events including the University of Lagos grounds in Akoka. Meanwhile Nigeria’s biggest cricket League, the CCC (Club Cricket Committee) League, will have its elite division games on the grass wickets.
On maintenance, Akpata stated that a group of individuals have since evolved into groundsmen who are capable of nursing the turf to standards.
Two commemorative games were played at the launch of the event, the first was the between selected present and past national team players and other top cricketers in the country(elites). The selected international won by 11 runs.
The veteran’s game (Over 50’s)which featured a number invited cricket stakeholders and ex internationals across the country saw the former president of the Federation, Kwesi Sagoe pitched against the Kome Agodo’s side.
Other top Cricketers that graced the event included, Chuma Anosike, Professor Jacob Onyechi (Teamber), Femi Olayiwole, Okon Ukpong, Uthe Ogbimi, Omini Ofem, Baranaby Ephraim, Wale Obalola, Charles Omoera, Dipo Idowu and Kofi Sagoe.