Kaymo’s Korner: It’s time cricket is taken to the people, for real

2013-07-21 14:00

Wow, the Highveld Lions, the Titans and Momentum have taken a very big step in taking the game to the people.

Their initiative to take domestic limited overs games to Mamelodi next month goes a long way in cutting through cricket’s elitist red tape and long-standing stigma.

No matter how good the initiative, though, I still believe that competitive games need to be taken to townships to seriously awaken black people’s interest in the game.

But the carrot has been handed to them, and now this venture, irrespective of its size, will determine how seriously they take the sport.

Warm-up matches will do well in the name of development but competitive matches will capture people’s imaginations.

After all, cricket is on a pay channel that not everybody can afford.

That’s neither the fault of SuperSport nor Cricket SA (CSA), Cricket is an expensive sport that burns deep holes in black parents’ pockets. This is also something that extends to schools, hence school cricket is still the domain of the former Model C and private schools.

The sport has a rich heritage in many of South Africa’s townships but that’s not something CSA has taken advantage of.

There have been warm-up games hosted at township facilities, but with the shortening of tours, those games have become scarce and they have also been allocated to secondary grounds.

The dispersing of such games to rarely used venues is not unique because even in other countries, top-flight cricket is still confined to the big cities.

One thing regional teams abroad do very well is take games to their respective regions, however remote. But the difference with those regional venues and the township ones lies in general upkeep.

In South Africa, township grounds more often than not fall on to the bad side of derelict.

This difference also shows through as one that exists between South African and Australian cricket, where the latter country’s first class teams still have the ability to attract players from rural areas.

That said, test cricket remains in the hands of elite urban venues, and that is not about to change any time soon.

But should those dusty township grounds be repaired and maintained, they could be better than some of the concrete bowls we see in some cities abroad.

Some unassuming top-flight ovals that come to mind are Sri Lanka’s Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy and the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.

These are not monolithic sporting arenas in the mould of the MCG or Wankhede, but their value perhaps lies in their old-world rural charm.

More importantly, and something that needs to be a precedent, is that franchises need to take games to the townships willingly.

Young black cricketers don’t have many role models to look up to and they don’t even have the opportunity to watch their white role models in their own back yards.

With South Africa producing only five black test cricketers since 1992, there has never been a better time for CSA to unearth black cricketers.

If excellent sportspeople can be mined and cultivated from Australia’s outback, there should be nothing to stop CSA from doing the same in our many townships, which are no doubt dripping with raw talent and potential.

» khanyiso.tshwaku@citypress.co.za

» Follow me on Twitter @kaymorizm

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