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Last updated: Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 16:17 GMT

Namibia's youthful hero
By Nick Hoult
BBC Sport Online

Only five years ago, Burton van Rooi had never picked up a cricket bat.

But his performances in helping Namibia qualify for the World Cup for the first time made him a national hero.

Burton van Rooi of Namibia
Van Rooi has made rapid progress
His exploits at the ICC Trophy in Canada, when he took 6-43 against Scotland to guarantee Namibia's qualification catapulted the 19-year-old from the back streets of Windhoek to national status.

Van Rooi, who has gleaned much of his cricketing knowledge from the television, is a hard hitting batsman and fast medium bowler whose development over the past four years has been startling.

Denied the coaching and expert advice that has been afforded to players from more developed cricketing nations, Van Rooi has beaten the odds to become an international sportsman.

"Until I went to High School I had never played cricket," he admitted.

"I didn't know anything about the game but I remember seeing some guys playing it at school and I decided to give it a go. I played at school and in my grandmother's back yard with a tennis ball.

We just have to go out there and find more Burton Van Roois
Werner Jeffrey

"I started enjoying the game and my teacher thought I had some potential so he sent me to the national trials where I was spotted by the selectors.

"It all happened very quickly. One minute I was playing school cricket and the next I was in the national team.

"I've watched Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting on television and playing against those guys will be fantastic."

His success in Canada earned Van Rooi the Namibian Sportsman of the Year award, and Werner Jeffrey, development officer of the Namibian Cricket Board, is hoping his exploits will encourage the indigenous population to take up the game.

"The biggest problem is that we have not got enough cricket equipment for the schools and disadvantaged areas," he said.

Werner Jeffrey
Jeffrey is hoping the game will take off

"We have taken great strides over the past four years but mainly in the white schools and we are now trying to get through to the black communities.

"We like to think that in eight years our national side will be representative of the population and there will be more black players in the team."

There are just four cricket clubs in Namibia all based in the capital Windhoek.

But the work of English professionals James Kirtley and Neil Lenham, who have both had spells coaching for the Namibian cricket authorities, has helped the development of the sport.

The fruits of their labour are now beginning to bloom and the World Cup should see Van Rooi pit his talents against the best - not bad for a lad who a few years ago had never heard of the game.

Links to more Namibia stories



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