India’s Champions League T20 the perfect window shopping opportunity for selectors ahead of a busy summer schedule

2011-09-28 00:00

THE Nokia Champions League T20 tournament is well underway in India. Both South African franchises have performed impressively with the Warriors at the top of Group B and the Cape Cobras lying second, behind the Mumbai Indians in Group A.

Gary Kirsten will have his attention firmly focused on proceedings in India ahead of a busy international season. He and the selectors will have noted Roelof van der Merwe’s impressive batting for Somerset and the contributions of JJ Smuts with the bat, and Rusty Theron with the ball, for the Warriors. The tournament is a good vantage point from which Kirsten can view current and prospective Proteas in action before the start of the first T20 match against the Australians on October 13.

Although there is sizeable prize money up for grabs (even for the losers), the Champions League tournament also serves as a valuable launch pad for other opportunities. Players who perform well on the Champions League stage will be noticed by Indian Premier League team managers, English county scouts as well as national selectors. The exposure is massive for the players who take part and the cash injection it brings the franchise makes securing a place in this tournament a high priority for every franchise team.

Before the advent of the Champions League tournament, it was the National Club Championships, which signalled cricket’s pre-season in South Africa. Then, club teams were packed with provincial players and the tournament provided the perfect shop window for provincial scouts to see what talent was on offer.

Sadly, since then club cricket in South Africa has experienced some tough times. This was evident in the 2011 Cricket South Africa (CSA) National Club championships held in Pretoria recently. Five of the twelve “club” teams came from tertiary institutions, confirming that universities and the like are becoming the new academies of cricket in the country. Teams from the Central University of Technology (Free State), University of Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), University of Pretoria and the University of Potchefstroom all emerged as winners of their local club leagues.

These places of learning are playing a vital role as nurseries for aspiring cricketers. In this year’s tournament it was the team from NMMU, my alma mater, who were crowned club champions after thumping the University of Johannesburg in the final by nine wickets.

The Hilton College U14 cricket week involving schools from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town begins tomorrow and the 52nd Michaelmas cricket week hosted by Maritzburg College gets underway on Saturday. Some of the best schoolboy cricket in the country will be showcased over four days at various venues around Pietermaritzburg.

Whatever the format, pre-season tours signal an exciting summer of cricket and provide valuable opportunities for players at every level to kickstart their careers.

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