How to keep old boys in the cricketing fold after school

2013-02-23 00:00

Dear Mr White,

Thank you for your provocative piece in the last Weekend Witness. As you can imagine it has caused a discussion on this campus. I must say having read the column I both agree with certain statements and disagree with others, and feel that I have something to add to the debate. Perhaps this was one of your intentions?

In the disagreement column, I am afraid, is the somewhat cavalier approach you take to looking for reasons why boys from independent schools are not playing representative cricket beyond school level. Whilst conceding that both yourself and Anton Ferreira have a great deal of experience in the field, to simply label all boys from our schools as being “not tough enough” is simplistic and unhelpful. I could enter into debate on the matter from our side, but I believe that this is creating a focus where one should not be. Furthermore, the purported approach by my predecessor to toughen up the boys from Balgowan simply did not happen. There have been a long list of interventions here over the years to help boys with mental and physical preparation for sport and life, and to single out one of them is mischievous on your part. Indeed they match similar approaches in a number of similar schools that take sport seriously, both independent and state. Suggesting that something needs to change within independent schools is again trying to find a solution in the wrong area.

What then would I like to focus on? We now turn to the agreement column. You provide the answer to your own question towards the end of your column. Most of the boys who come to Michaelhouse (and other independent schools) have their sights fixed on a goal once they leave school that focuses primarily on an academic education, rather than a cricketing one. I am afraid there are a number of roadblocks put in their way after school to prevent them from achieving at both, and this could be part of a far deeper discussion elsewhere. The approach used by Saru together with their sponsors is a model that could be followed successfully by CSA. A vibrant youth programme focused on clubs and universities, aligned with junior provincial structures and academies, and with concessions for academic time would go a long way towards keeping boys from independent schools in the cricketing fold once they leave school. At present there are very limited opportunities for boys to get involved in provincial and national structures when they have left school. The longevity of some of the players at these levels, whilst providing wonderful depth to our cricket generally, does limit the influx of youngsters each year.

As an exercise, look at the large proportion of boys from independent schools playing in the provincial weeks at the end of Grade 12; imagine that they stay with CSA in whichever structure is invented; and then consider the even more wonderful depth than we have at present in national structures.

GREG THERON

Rector

Michaelhouse

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