JOHANNESBURG – Dr Ali Bacher does not hold back when asked about transformation in cricket.
“South Africa’s cricket administrators took their eyes off the ball. That’s the reality,” he says.
While South Africa has in recent years unearthed several talented black cricketers, the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Bacher still feels not enough is being done to develop cricketers of colour.
“The problem that South African cricket has, is that every few years you have the odd black player that makes it to the top, and even then, these players come from private schools,” says the former South African test captain.
“Makhaya Ntini went to Dale College, and Rabada went to St Stithians. As long as this trend continues, there will never be an influx of quality black players,” added Bacher
He believes he may have found the solution for solving a problem that South African cricket has battled with for years.
For the past year, Bacher has been working closely with the Gauteng Cricket Board to find a solution that he hopes will help the transformation of cricket.
“Our hope was to establish a pipeline whereby we can unearth talented black cricketers from the townships at grassroots level,” says Bacher.
After several meetings with the president of the Gauteng Cricket Board, Jack Madiseng, Bacher and the cricket board finally came up with a solution.
“I met Jack a couple of months ago and he had the idea of targeting public schools, which have a majority of black pupils , and which have cricketing facilities but do not use them,” says Bacher
Together with the Gauteng Cricket Board, Bacher and his team identified five Gauteng high schools, which they will put all their focus and energy into in a bid to ensure effective cricket is played throughout the schooling year.
“After much consideration we carefully selected five schools where there is a great culture and interest in cricket, where they have almost 100 percent black pupils, where they have existing cricketing facilities, but where no cricket was being played,” he said.
These schools are Krugersdorp High School in the West Rand, Highlands North High School, General Smuts High School, Mondeor High School and Queens High School.
“All the schools that were chosen, were hand picked and have pupils that come from townships nearby,” he says.
Bacher says the development programme at the Gauteng schools will kick off in the next two weeks.
“It won’t be a clinic where we are there just once a week. We will focus on ensuring that these schools play effective cricket throughout the cricketing year. We’ve got coaches to help assist learners from standard six going all the way up to matric. We’re going to be coaching the kids, playing cricket games, and ensuring that the highest level of cricket is being played,” said Bacher.
The development programme, which will be implemented in Gauteng for the time being, has been given financial backing by major telecommunications company Blue Label Telecoms.
Madiseng is pleased about the project. “We’ve always worried about the pool of talent coming from our townships and so this is a really exciting project. I met with Dr Bacher a number of times. The idea was to create black cricketing schools in the townships," said Madiseng.
He said one of the challenges that comes with this type of programmeis that it requires a lot of capital injection.
“We decided why don’t we focus on schools that have existing cricketing facilities but have a majority of black pupils who come from various townships,” he said.
Madiseng added, even though Gauteng has produced a number of talented black cricketers, it wasn’t nearly enough.
“For years we’ve been trying to do a number of things to ensure we develop more black cricketers but we haven’t had any success.
“We want to produce locally brewed talent, instead of having to import talent from various provinces to represent Gauteng or the Lions especially from a black perspective. I believe that this project will help us achieve our goals of developing more talented black cricketers,” said Madiseng.
Blue Label Telecoms chief marketing officer Rob Fleming says it didn’t think twice about backing the venture.
“Probably about 80 percent of Proteas come from just 40 schools in South Africa. Imagine if we can get 40 black schools around the country to also contribute. It will create a natural pipeline for more black players to come through the ranks. If we can make this happen it will no doubt be a success,” he said.
Should the initiative prove a success, says Bacher, it will be implemented in other schools across South Africa.