Developing young cricketers

2014-07-09 00:00

SEVENTY-TWO of KwaZulu-Natal’s most promising young cricketers were selected for six teams making up the elite Sunfoil development squad at the conclusion of this year’s Sunfoil Township Tournament, paving the way for the development of the great talents of the future for both the province and South Africa.

The tournament, which took place at Hilton College from July 1 to July 4, is a key element of a successful development programme run by the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union (KZNCU) and Willowton Group, manufacturers of Sunfoil cooking oil. It provides disadvantaged youngsters within the coaching programme an opportunity to showcase their talent in a competitive match environment.

Over four days, 300 gifted young cricketers from KZN, Gauteng, Border, Griqualand West and Western ­Province, divided into 24 teams of 12, played 49 matches in a T20 format.

The ultimate goal of all participants was to be selected for the elite Sunfoil development teams with a view to ­being considered for the Dolphins Academy in the future.

The U15 and U19 Sunfoil XI Invitation team were announced at the conclusion of the tournament and these teams played against the Sunfoil XI Guest team.

Shoaib Moosa, sales and marketing director of Willowton Group, said, “The Sunfoil Township Tournament, which is integral to the overall Township Development Programme, has come a long way over the past seven years.

“The Township Development Programme is contributing to Cricket South Africa’s vision of cricket being a truly national sport and available to all who want to play it and pursue excellence at all levels of the game,” he said.

“All those involved in the tournament this year have commented on the significant improvement in the standard of cricket being played. In addition to the players of the day being recognised in the U15 and U19 categories, two promising cricketers, Banele Cele and Bayanda Gumbi, have been awarded bursaries to attend Glenwood ­Preparatory School and Maritzburg College. It is wonderful to see these prominent schools giving township boys an opportunity for a well-rounded education,” said Moosa.

Londiswa Zuma, a SA U19 cricketer from Maritzburg College who attended the tournament, said, “The spirit of the tournament is amazing and it helps cricketers manifest themselves.”

He encouraged the boys not to give up playing cricket as their dream of ­success is in their hands.

Willowton is committed to cricket sponsorship in South Africa from a grassroots development level to the Sunfoil Dolphins and Proteas Test Cricket.

The programme has drawn praise from Cricket South Africa and has been used as a template for other cricket franchises, growing from strength to strength. At the closing ceremony, the umpires complimented the organisers on their vision and said that the tournament is a great breeding ground for the future of cricket.

The MEC for Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, attended the final day. He said the tournament is an amazing, innovative programme and he was happy to see what KwaZulu-Natal was doing for the sport.

Linda Zondi, the KZNCU’s township development manager, said that this year’s tournament delivered a higher standard of play than ever ­before.

“The standard and level of players has improved immeasurably. It is overwhelming to see teams scoring more than 120 runs in 20 overs and players reaching 50 runs and above individually. This signifies growth in the quality that is being brewed at this tournament.”

This year marked a number of firsts for the tournament. The tournament was played on two fields, and Griqualand West were invited to participate alongside Gauteng, Border and Western Province. They each brought one U15 and one U9 team to the tournament.

Zondi said outside teams had been included to maintain high standards and focus on quality rather than quantity. “Inclusion of other sides allows KZN to benchmark their performance. Their sides could be better than ours, so it makes sense for us to give our players the chance to learn from them and up their games,” he said.

He further commented that the programme was already delivering tangible results and has played an important role in the success of 55 township teams playing in the Durban and District Cricket Union league in the 2013/14 season. Five of the teams won their leagues.

Zondi said that the tournament’s legacy was not confined to players. In addition to the 300 players taking part in the Sunfoil Township Tournament, a working committee of almost 150 people, together with coaches, selectors and umpires, had made the most of opportunities to improve their skills at this year’s tournament.

“They are now able to take back knowledge gained at the tournament to improve standards at their clubs. This will undoubtedly equip them to produce better cricketers. I am ­confident that by providing opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to play regularly and stay motivated, they can reach their full ­potential,” Moosa commented.

“Although the Township Tournament is for the top performing players in their age groups, it also gives less skilled and up-and-coming players something to strive towards. We are definitely beginning to see more enthusiasm for cricket among disadvantaged youngsters within their communities,” Moosa said.

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