PMB cricket would do well to learn from the success of Warriors’ franchise

2010-02-10 00:00

THERE are serious challenges facing first-class and franchise cricket around the country. The issue of transformation requires urgent attention and there is also a great need for franchises to develop their own pool of players. It’s all a bit daunting, but thankfully there is some good news emerging from the Eastern Cape.

Developments in the Warriors franchise are encouraging. It’s taken some time for the Eastern Cape franchise to establish its identity and to find a home base. After starting off in Port Elizabeth, the franchise was transferred to East London, but has returned to the “Windy City”. This move has been a good one for the Warriors. In Port Elizabeth they have the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (the former UPE), which is once again proving to be a productive nursery of promising players.

NMMU emerged victorious at the national club champs last year. In playing good cricket, they have been successful in attracting talent to the university side and thus to the pool from which the franchise is able to draw. For parents of talented cricketers, NMMU is an appealing university choice.

A strong university team has a positive ripple effect. Not only is the club league stronger, but it also provides an excellent feeder to the franchise. With a higher standard of club cricket players are motivated to succeed, as they know that good performances will get noticed and selection into the franchise is the next step. This is a good example of how the system should work.

This season it’s the youngsters from the Warriors who have proved themselves. Admittedly in the MTN 40 final it was the seasoned professionals, Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince, who did the business, but young players like JJ Smuts and Colin Ingram have taken responsibility in their absence.

In the past, the Warriors have imported players from other parts of the country. The fact that they are now able to bring their own talented players through the system is reward for their hard work.

The development of homegrown talent is vital for the success of any franchise and I believe other provinces would do well to take a leaf out of the Warriors book.

The fact that six of the Dolphins players who took to the field on Sunday were originally from other franchises is revealing.

Inland cricket based in Pietermaritzburg has great potential to grow the game. There is an excellent infrastructure — a university, a varsity college and top-class schools. So many promising cricketers choose to study here and yet we struggle to keep them in the area after they matriculate or graduate.

Sadly, the standard of club cricket is the main reason. The lack of opportunities for promising players to be noticed in games where teams are bowled out for under 30, where teams arrive short of players or where there are no umpires is not helping the situation. Not many players wanting to make cricket their career would chose to play in these conditions and Maritzburg’s loss is always another franchise’s gain.

It’s easy for us to throw up our hands and look for people to blame, but this is not helpful. There is much to do, but Inland cricket can take heart from what is happening in the Eastern Cape. With everything going for it, Pietermaitzburg deserves to realise its cricketers’ potential.

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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