Riding the Mynahs’ tides

2014-09-10 00:00

IN 1971 Natal cricket was at a low ebb. The team’s fortunes were dire and something needed to be done to ensure the phoenix again rose from the ashes.

Enter a group of concerned cricket folk who formed the Kingsmead Mynahs Club to foster and promote cricket in the province.

Their first move was getting the great Barry Richards to continue plying his trade in Durban.

“We offered him a contract for two seasons. I think it was about R120 000,” said Dick Lambert, current Mynahs president and one of the club’s longest serving members. “We got sponsorship from Clover and Barry was sponsored a rand a run. I think he made about 1800 runs that season and the original contract is on the wall in our club headquarters in the Friendship Pavilion at Kingsmead.”

In the ensuing years, the club brought out decent cricketers who played for Natal and then coached at schools. They played club cricket and their contract was supplemented by the club they represented.

“Some of the players we had were John Steele, Stuart Turner, Alan Jones, Bob Woolmer and Paul Parker,” said Lambert. “Our goal was to get structures in place to benefit cricket in our province; to nurture promising players from within the province and give them the opportunity to take their game further. We still aspire to that today and any funds we raise are ploughed back into cricket development.”

The club started with a small seating area at Kingsmead, members and guests seated under a tin roof, “a tin shanty,” as described by Lambert. “Guests paid R10 and there was a caravan behind them with a tent where lunch was held.

“When Kingsmead was revamped, we moved to the top of the North Stand, in the left corner. Then, when the Friendship Pavilion was built, we moved across, originally having a spot on the east side which we did not enjoy. We then moved to our current spot, overlooking Castle Corner, with 250 seats.”

While current membership is about 130, the essence of the club remains — to grow the seed of cricket and reap a rich harvest.

Consequently, the club annually selects an U17 side to play a series of matches over a week, including against a KZN Inland side, country districts side, academy team and team of past provincial and club players. Trials are held for selection and the final team are presented with their Mynahs caps at a special capping ceremony.

Another feather in the club’s cap is the three-day annual U11 primary schools T20 tournament at Kearsney College and Highbury, this year’s event from September 26-28.

“We have 20 sides, three of them development teams and I would say it’s the best junior tournament in the country,” said past Mynahs president Colin Chater.

Thanks to the Mynahs, state-of-the-art cricket nets have been installed at Ottawa Primary School near Verulam in a project to assist former cricket great Mike Procter and fellow coach Rodney Malamba take the game to outlying areas.

“We also have a golf day and we encourage the great players of the past to still be involved,” said another past president, Johnny Arthur, father of Mickey. “When Kingsmead has the Boxing Day Test we have many past provincial and international players for lunch, plus greats from other sporting codes.”

Another of the club’s endeavours is to get people back to Kingsmead and encourage younger members.

“We need younger folks to get involved. We are close to celebrating 50 years, but who knows where the club will go after that,” said Lambert. “These days, television is the easier option ... but a true cricket connoisseur would never turn down the opportunity to chew the cud with those who have played in the days of yesteryear.”

Joining Mynahs:

• The club is open to men and women

• Fees are R100 a year plus R50 administration fee plus R900 for a season ticket

• The club is a registered NPO

• Contact Colin Chater at 083 653 4792

Past presidents:

Some famous cricketing names are on the board of past presidents including Pat Trimborn, David Pithey and Peter Pollock, all South African cricketers.

Mynahs facts:

• At its peak, the club once had 800 members

• Started the mini Mynahs on Saturday mornings, giving school children the opportunity to play cricket. This was played where Suncoast Casino now is.

• Mynahs spoke to Ali Bacher on the initiative and from this, Bakers Mini Cricket was born.

• By offering contracts to players, Mynahs can lay claim to starting professional cricket in South Africa.

• Organised the limited overs Computer Science tournament in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Kingsmead involving Natal, Western Province and Transvaal.

• Any South African cricketer who played for Natal becomes an honorary member of the club.

• This year, the club organised the Golden Oldies Cricket Festival with teams from around the country participating.

Final thoughts:

• “It’s sad club cricket has lost it’s standing. When we played, the grounds were full and any provincial or international player not involved in any games, would turn out for their club.” — Dick Lambert

• “Clubs are not associated with the schools these days and because of this, great talent is slipping through our hands. Older players used to encourage the youngsters.” — Johnny Arthur.

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