CAPE TOWN – When Ashwell Prince returned to Port Elizabeth for Gelvandale Cricket Club’s 40th anniversary celebrations recently, there were a few truths that hit home.
While Prince has always been proud of his roots and the club which helped him develop into a Proteas batsman who played 66 Tests for his country, it became more evident the role clubs such as Gelvandale played in the bigger picture of South Africa’s history.
“The club started in 1977, which was obviously during the heart of the struggle, and it became an outlet for many young boys in the area to burn some positive energy.
“All the people involved at the club are community members who put their shoulder to the wheel in terms of the administration, coaching and other aspects of the club,” Prince said.
Gelvandale CC were certainly a beacon of hope both past and present, with the club producing Proteas such as Prince, Alviro Petersen and Garnett Kruger plus national coach Russell Domingo, while they are currently also a Cricket South Africa “hub”.
However, Prince believes it is not only clubs which have a crucial role to play in building the next generation.
It is for this reason that Prince has such a high regard for the work the JP21 Project - the foundation of his Cobras captain JP Duminy - is doing is doing in the Mitchells Plain and Strandfontein areas.
The JP21 Project has certainly done sterling work since its inception in 2014, with 36 primary schools involved in the initiative. It has revived the spirit of cricket in the area and provided an outlet for children to express themselves.
“JP is doing wonderful work which is much needed,” Prince says.
“While obviously there are opportunities for cricketers of all races to represent their country now, there are other challenges faced by the communities.
“Besides the daily survival challenges like nutrition etc, there are also issues around facilities and transport and the Project is doing amazing work in making the game available to all children.
“We cannot take for granted the value of playing sport within your community.”
Prince will unfortunately not be present at the JP21 Super Eights Charity Cricket day set to be held at the exclusive Val de Vie Estate on December 17 - a fundraiser for the JP21 Project - but believes such initiatives need to be supported in order for the game to continue to grow.
“It is really tough to secure corporate sponsorship in this day and age. JP and his guys are doing excellent work and their efforts can already be seen.
“It is not even about producing the next Proteas, but about getting children healthy and active because kids are all wanting to stay indoors on the cellphones and Playstations and X-boxes, and such projects have to get our full support,” Prince added.