Johannesburg – Cricket South Africa want to work more closely with the government in an attempt to fulfil the organisation’s transformation targets.
At a four-day conference that ended on Thursday, involving coaches from various levels of the game in South Africa, some grim figures emerged about the numbers of black African players at international and even franchise level.
Cricket SA’s General Manager: Cricket, Corrie van Zyl, emphasised that it was important for the organisation and the coaches, whose jobs are to develop players, that they understood why players weren’t coming through to represent the country or even feature regularly at franchise level.
Van Zyl commissioned a research study looking at reasons for the low representation of black Africans at national and the data that was presented to the conference “wasn’t rosy”.
Among a host of challenges facing the sport and particularly the development aspect thereof for CSA was the creation and maintaining of facilities. “We need to create more facilities and in order to do that, we must create partnerships, with industry and with government. If we want to go to government with a sustainable programme we need to have a plan,” Van Zyl said on Thursday.
In order to present the government with a plan CSA are doing a country-wide count of all schools and clubs to assess the standards of their facilities.
“We will assess every school, every club that plays cricket. What are the facilities like? When we have that information we can start targeting certain areas – “here you can play, there you can’t play” – and how can we get the communities involved there. It’s the first time we will have data and with that we will be able to create a plan which we can take to government. It’s a huge challenge.”
Initiatives such as the ‘eKasi Challenge’, which on Friday sees the Highveld Lions face the Titans in Mamelodi, play an important part in raising the profile of the sport in new areas, but Van Zyl stressed the importance of sustaining the interest, when the spotlight is turned off.
“The eKasi Challenge is important in that it makes people aware. But then what after? Because if it’s just that, then it’s only a publicity stunt,” Van Zyl remarked.
Since South Africa’s return from sporting isolation, only five black Africans have played Test cricket. The poor communication between the national selectors and Thami Tsolekile last year about his position in the Test side put the situation squarely in the public eye, something Van Zyl and CSA want to avoid in future. “This is one part of the pipeline, the coaches, we now need to see how the other levels fit into this and how they influence each other in order that we deliver. So we need to take this information to the (franchise) CEOs and ask them how they can help everyone get this right. Then we go to the board, so that eventually everyone plays their part in achieving the greater goal.”
The development goals had to be aligned with maintaining excellence, Van Zyl stressed, while Geoffrey Toyana, the Lions’ coach, emphasised the need to show patience with players.
“We are not going to have black African players in the national team unless we back them and are patient with them at franchise level. I hope all the coaches keep to that mandate,” Toyana commented.