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JJ Smit: Namibia’s mainstay for big occasions

Last updated on 12 Mar 2024 | 01:50 PM
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JJ Smit: Namibia’s mainstay for big occasions

In a chat with, the Namibia vice-captain opens up about his side’s qualification to yet another T20 World Cup, Andre Russell’s impact, the ongoing CWC League 2 cycle and more

Namibia are among those associate nations that are to be feared in major tournaments. And there are reasons for that. They have had terrific coaching staff, an astute leader and a bunch of skilled players who have managed to deliver at the biggest stage.

Among those players who have thrived is vice-captain JJ Smit, a senior all-rounder who has been at the forefront of Namibia’s success in the recent past. The African side have made it to their third T20 World Cup in a row now – something that even their neighbours and full-members Zimbabwe have not been able to achieve.

All this did not happen overnight. They have made the best of the limited resources at their disposal; the result is now for the world to see.

“Our third World Cup in 4-5 years. It's amazing for our country. We've inspired a lot of young boys and girls back home playing. Excited for the boys. Looking forward to playing Australia and England - two of the best teams in the world. And then, of course, Scotland and Oman as well,” Smit said in a chat with in Kathmandu.

Namibia were recently in Nepal for the new cycle of the Cricket World Cup (CWC) League 2, which is one of the pathways for the 2027 World Cup, incidentally co-hosted by Namibia.

Nepal has not been an easy place to visit for any team. Namibia had, in fact, lost both their games against Nepal at the TU Cricket Stadium last year, which was one of the reasons behind them not securing a berth in the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

They have, however, turned things around this time, beating Nepal twice, ending the tour with three wins on the board.

“Beating Nepal here at Nepal's home ground is difficult. Their record here is insane, really good. Something we, as a Namibian team, want to strive for back home. Looking forward to the League 2 - Another 40-odd ODIs we are playing, seeing the whole World. Looking forward to it,” Smit said.

Barring a first-ball duck in the final game against the Netherlands, Smit made a useful contribution in every other match. The 200-run mark was not breached very often in the tournament due to the 9 AM starts in Kathmandu, but Smit showed great application with the way he went about things, something which his skipper Gerhard Erasmus too acknowledged.

While scores of 17* (35), 26 (46) and 34* (66) might not look massive, these knocks were the need of the hour, and he delivered. Smit, though, had no issues with the pitches.

“I wasn't here last time [in 2023]. What I saw on the the first hour, hour and a half, it is difficult to bat, then it gets easier, then it gets difficult to bat again in the end. That's a good cricket pitch,” he said.

Smit had predicted that there would be plenty of runs on offer in the T20I tri-series between Nepal, Namibia and the Netherlands after the 50-over contests, and it turned out to be true.

“We could see a big hundred, or a fast hundred,” he had said ahead of the series, and his teammate Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton proved him right as he smashed the fastest T20I hundred, getting to the milestone off just 33 deliveries on February 27.

These four T20Is plus one more lined up against Oman in May are certainly terrific platforms for the team to work together to iron out the wrinkles ahead of the T20 World Cup in the US and West Indies, starting June 1.

Smit, one of many left-arm pace bowlers in the side, did not bowl in the ODIs or the T20Is in Nepal, given that he is slowly recovering from a knee injury. However, his bowling could play a vital role in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

In 2023, Smit picked up 12 wickets at an economy rate of 6.1 in the 29.2 overs he sent down. He may not be an out-and-out wicket-taker, but certainly possesses the ability to keep things quiet, thereby creating pressure.

“It is just trying to stay fit,” Smit said when asked how he manages the workload of being a fast bowling all-rounder.

“I'm not bowling at the moment with the ongoing knee injury but it's difficult to get up and do it and practice everyday. At the end of the day, it's your job, so you have to do it and I enjoy bowling. I can't wait to get back to bowling.”

Smit is looking forward to playing in T20 leagues around the world to enhance his skills further. He has played a couple of seasons in the Global T20 Canada, most recently in 2023 when he turned up for Toronto Nationals. Back in 2019, he linked up with Andre Russell at the Vancouver Knights, and the Jamaican’s advice has stuck with him ever since.

“When we played together in Canada - he said, always work hard, always believe you can win from any position even if you need 28 to win off an over believe you can win,” Smit recollected.

“He told me you can win the game from anywhere - doesn't matter if you have enough power [or not], keep your mind still and keep your head in the game - and you can win from anywhere.”

That seems to have had an impact of sorts on Smit, who has since gone on to play a massive role with the bat in two of Namibia’s famous wins at the T20 World Cup. He scored 32* off 23 against Scotland in 2021, in Namibia’s first-ever win at the Super12 stage and 31* off 16 against the then- Asia Cup winners Sri Lanka in the following edition in Geelong.

Can he add to his catalogue in the T20 World Cup in 2024?

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