CAPE TOWN - I have coached junior cricketers for a long time. It's a passion of mine. Moulding and mentoring young minds in helping them to unlock their talent to hopefully reach their full potential.
But until this past weekend I have never coached a girl. My only previous experience of any girl in a cricket team of mine was when my best friend's sister joined our Under-11 team way back in the mid1990s when I was still playing junior cricket.
She had plenty of potential easily the best athlete in our side at the time - and could have had a future in the game had there been greater opportunities for women's cricketers. She instead went on to become a national table tennis player.
Twenty five years on, and I find myself coaching young Jemma Botha. Even though so many years have passed, Jemma still finds herself having to play in a boys team to get competitive cricket.
I don't have an issue with it in regards to her development for she has been accustomed to playing against physically stronger players from a young age which has seen her receive a call-up to the Western Province Girls Under-19 team at just 13 years old.
The problem I have is that there are not more opportunities for Jemma's girl friends to be playing cricket together instead of with boys within their respective age groups.
Fortunately there are now opportunities for Jemma and her friends to actually make a career out with the game with Cricket SA awarding 16 national contracts and now a further 42 semi-pro contracts.
It is a momentous development for the women's game in this country. And this is why the Proteas Women's national team's historic series win in India was so important. The series win has put the Proteas right up amongst the frontrunners for the World Cup next year in New Zealand.
Furthermore, their profile has further been raised through the elevation of Lizelle Lee to the World No 1 ranking for ODI batters. All of this is crucial in attracting greater broadcast revenue and sponsorship for the women's game. While the women deservedly require greater investment, the reality unfortunately is that it will always work in such a way that it will be dependent on the success of the national team.
The Proteas' men works in the same way: win more, more money to develop. The fundamental difference is, of course, the base the men and women are working from.
Fortunately, though, right now the Proteas' women's team is the success story that Cricket SA has so desperately craved for. And it is only right that even in these tough Covid-19 economic times that they receive the investment they deserve to give the likes of Jemma and her friends the best chance to play this wonderful game of cricket.