Sunday Times

Producing elite black African batters a priority


● The Northerns Cricket Union (NCU) is happy to cop criticism from different quarters over its decision to have elite training camps specifical­ly for young black African batters, because it believes it is an area of the developmen­t programme in which South African cricket has generally failed.

The project, which this year will include seven two-hour sessions with AB de Villiers, is an attempt by the NCU to solve a problem that has blighted domestic cricket for three decades.

“We have to ask ourselves why are we struggling to produce black batters,” said the NCU’s CEO Jacque Faul.

“It is a reality, not only for us, but all the other provinces. Ignoring the problem won’t help it to go away. This is an honest way to focus on a (specific) group.”

Despite hundreds of millions of rand spent on the developmen­t programme — taking the game to new areas, trying to build up other more historic, well establishe­d cricket clubs — South Africa has struggled to produce black African batters.

Only Temba Bavuma and Tony de Zorzi are regulars in the national team, and the recent tour to New Zealand, by what was termed a Proteas “C team”, highlighte­d just how bad the problem remains.

Even in that squad, there was just one black African batter, Khaya Zondo, who didn’t play in either Test.

He is 33 years old, has already played five Tests and 150 first-class matches, yet isn’t good enough to crack a starting spot.

Domestical­ly, nobody is knocking down the door demanding selection.

There are only four black African batters among the top 20 leading run-scorers in this season’s Four-Day series, and two of them — Aviwe Mgijima and Grant Mokoena — are 35 and 36 years old, respective­ly.

“It’s not like our developmen­t pipeline is a problem, because we are producing white players, Indian players and Coloured players, but we are not kicking out black African players, specifical­ly batters,” said Faul.

The NCU’s programme focuses on five players, which will increase to eight this winter, and is an elite, highly technical training programme.

It has had former Titans captain Henry Davids oversee sessions along with current skipper Sibonelo Makhanya, and Faul believes De Villiers will elevate the sessions even further.

“His presence alone will be inspiratio­nal. If you’re not going to listen to AB de Villiers, who will you listen to?”

Pointing out that the act of batting, because of the vast technical skill required, is harder to master than bowling, Faul said he was happy to absorb the criticism he has received from many quarters, in order for the programme to succeed.

“We have been asked why we are not doing this for just white players and just Coloured players, but that is not where we have a problem. We are lucky in that we are financiall­y in a strong position as a union, and we can do this and we have our ex-players who want to get involved.”

De Villiers, said Faul, had asked that Northerns donate his fee for running the camps to his foundation.

“We have to try and crack the formula. We have a population of 55-million, and right now we are choosing our batters from 5- to 6-million people. Imagine if we expand that, we will be tapping into a much larger pool,” said Faul.

 ?? ?? Temba Bavuma
Temba Bavuma
 ?? AB de Villiers ??
AB de Villiers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa