Beki Mubaraq Kehinde is the Captain of University of Ilorin Cricket team. His experience assisted the team win medals at the just concluded NUGA Games at the University of Lagos. The 200 Level Student of History Education, University of Ilorin spoke to sportsbash.com.ng on his exploits, the challenges at the Games, and his future in the sport.
Let’s meet you?
My name is Beki Mubaraq Kehinde, 200 Level students of History Education, University of Ilorin. I am the Captain of University of Ilorin Cricket team to the recently concluded NUGA Games at the University of Lagos. I am also one of the Kwara state cricket players
Of all sports, why did you choose to play Cricket?
Growing up, everyone was good in football so, I was introduced to cricket when I was in Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3. I actually started playing cricket when I was Senior Secondary School (SSS) 1, because I was more interested then as most of my friends were already playing it. We were like, let’s try and see how good we can play this one too. Football is actually one of the best sports. I love playing it when I was younger.
I started playing cricket in 2015, when I was in SSS 1.
How interesting is the game of cricket?
Many people don’t know how interesting playing cricket is, because many people don’t understand the game. The game is interesting, especially the short format of cricket. If only people can take time to play and watch, they will realize how interesting it is, because the compartment is different; cricket is not a game that anyone can just bet on because the result can twist every now and then.
What was the reaction from your parents when they got to know you were playing cricket?
My father was a very supportive. When I told him that I was going into sports, he said, look, it is hard. You are going to get tired, but then he said whichever (sport) I choose, I should try and do it well. He told me he was not going to discourage me. My Mom said “go and do it but don’t come back saying you are tired”. I took that as a challenge.
My parents have been very supportive. My Dad is always happy that I do sports, so both parents have really been supportive including my elder siblings.
I will like to thank My Dad honestly, Mr Abdulfatahi Oladele Beki. I will like to thank him the most and all, and also my Mom. I thank my friends, especially Abdulrasheed Abolarin, my best friend, who is playing for Nigeria national team. He keeps motivating me and pushing me to be the best. I also thank my sister and my Coach, Mr. Wale Obalola who was first to gift me a canvass, and keeps supporting me. I also thank my colleagues for the supports.
Where have you been playing cricket before you gained admission into University of Ilorin?
I started playing cricket from secondary school, at Odo-Okun Government Day Secondary school. When I got into the University of Ilorin, I was already a Kwara state cricket player. Coach Sodiq Suleiman (Coach Sabo) and the Kwara State Stadium Manager, Wale Obalola, who is currently the Vice President of Nigeria Cricket Federation, told me they wanted a cricket team. I brought my friends (who play cricket) and asked that they be given admission at the University of Ilorin. But it wasn’t quite successful. Only two of them gained admission, and that’s how we started played together.
I was part of the athletes that represented the state at the Edo 2021 National Sports Festival, where the state won silver medal. I also played at the U-15 Championship that was held in Abuja in 2015 and 2016. I represented the state at the two most recent National Youth Games, where we won silver medal with my colleagues in 2016.
How long has the University of Ilorin Cricket team been training together?
We have been training for a very long time, but not with the full squad. Most of my colleagues were not sure we were going to participate at the NUGA Games, but I encouraged them to let us keep training, and also assured them we will participate in the Games. We had a full squad two months before the Games, when the date for the NUGA Games was announced.
How easy is it, combining playing cricket with academics?
It’s actually not easy, but because I am the Captain of the team, I have more responsibilities to undertake, being the captain.
How good and difficult were your opponents at the NUGA Games?
Most of our opponents had more experienced players. In our team, we only have about four out of twelve that are experienced. It wasn’t easy with UniPort, UniBen and others. We lost our first game against UniPort, but we won our second game against Unilag because we worked hard and played to our plan which really helped us to win.
All the players were so happy and motivated that we won a medal with the believe that we can do even better with every game. We won our subsequent matches against Unilag and OAU in the second format but getting to the finals against UniPort, my players were already scared that we are up against the strongest opponent.
What was the feeling like, winning medals for University of Ilorin at the NUGA Games?
Actually, it was great. I was so happy to get the medals. It was the first time University of Ilorin cricket team was fielded in inter-Universities competition, and so, most people were asking; “what are you guys going to do here?” Some even asked; “when did you guys come together, when did cricket start in Unilorin? Where did you train? Are you training at all?” my reply was that “you don’t need to know or see us in training”. So, when we won the first medal, then I was saying to myself “let’s see what they would say now”
What were the challenges you encountered at the NUGA Games?
To be honest, the equipment we had were not enough. It’s not all of us that has the right equipment, though the University wanted to get all the equipment for us, but cricket equipment are always hard to get.
How would you describe your coach and your colleagues?
My colleagues are actually fun to be with, though most of them are new to the sport.
And to our coach, Coach Adeoye Adewale, he is also very nice. He is a man of principle and philosophies. The school management (University of Ilorin) really tried their best, because it’s not easy to take over two hundred athletes to the Games. And, Alhamdulilah, we all got back home safely.
What will be your next step from now on?
The silver medal we got wasn’t really out best, because if it’s for me. I would really want the gold. And for the University of Ilorin, we need to always prepare well ahead of major competitions, even though doing that also comes with serious challenges, especially in terms of finance. We need to play friendly matches in all sports at some intervals, and also try to get all necessary equipment for trainings.
Would you like to continue playing cricket even after your graduation?
Yes. I am so into cricket that I believe it is going to be my career startup, because I believe it will pave the way for me at the long run. I will keep playing till I cannot play anymore. I have been invited to some few trials by the Nigeria Cricket Federation. It has not been as I wanted it, but I have been gaining experience, and believe I will be there someday.
And for the trials, it’s not been easy because only few players were selected from various states of the federation. I think another trial will soon hold, and I hope I will be invited. If I’m invited, I will do my best, as usual.
If I keep playing like this and having all the necessary support and exposure, I believe I can be the best player in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa.