Investing in the future of cricket
The culture of cricket has always been strong in the rural areas of the Border region and Cricket South Africa has initiated a project at the University of Fort Hare in Alice aimed at maintaining this tradition and raising standards even further.
The Joint Venture Rural Project at Fort Hare University is a partnership between Cricket South Africa (CSA), the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and the Border Cricket Board.
Funding for the project has come from the Government and a number of other partners. CSA built the playing facilities – a cricket field with four middle strips and two concrete nets. The change rooms were built with funds from the National Lottery Board, while the Department of Sport and Recreation funded a state-of-the art indoor cricket complex at the university.
The project has two legs: a high performance junior coaching programme and a CSA Cricket/Study Bursary Project.
The objectives are twofold – to grow cricket at a grassroots levels and to raise standards at the University, by giving the top players bursaries and setting them up for cricket at a higher level.
Former South African fast bowler Mfuneko Ngam is the coaching manager of the project and is based at the Krish Makerdhuj Indoor Cricket Complex at the University.
“The high performance programme for juniors involves a talent identification programme to identify promising schoolboys in the under-10 to under-19 age groups from the Alice, Middledrift and Healdtown/Fort Beaufort areas,” says Ngam.
“The players are transported to the indoor complex twice a week where they receive specialised coaching from myself and three coaches supplied by the Border Hub programme. I also spend time three days a week with the coaches at their regional coaching hubs and the players in the high performance programme are selected from these hubs.” he says.
It’s not all about nets and practicing, however, age group teams are selected from the programme and they play Saturday matches against the top cricketing schools in the Border region, including Hudson Park, Selborne, Dale and Queens College.
The CSA Cricket/Study Bursary Project is aimed at helping cricketers who have left school to hone their cricketing skills at the same time as receiving a tertiary education. The cricketers play for UFH, under the guidance of Ngam.
“This year, 10 bursaries were awarded and it has been decided to increase the number to 15 or 16 in 2010,” says Project Manager, Greg Hayes.
“The students study at either the Alice or East London Campuses of UFH or, if they do not meet the university entrance standards, at MSC College, a private FET College in Alice. All 10 bursary holders have signed CSA contracts which clearly outline what is required both academically and from a cricketing aspect in order to maintain the bursary”.
While enrolled in the programme the players from part of the Border Cricket setup, but once they have completed their course, those who are from other parts are free to return to their original provinces.
The team competes each year in an Academy Week, playing against teams selected from similar programmes in other CSA provinces.