The recruitment of new cricketers is an integral part of the business of One World of Sport. It is something we have to work on continuously because, as with any business, we need to find ways to grow and expand. A natural consequence of the recruitment process is that we get to meet new people on a regular basis.
In broad terms recruitment is done from two pools of players: Established cricketers (those who have played at least a few first-class games) and young cricketers (under 20 years old with no experience of first-class cricket). An established cricketer would be recruited because he has already displayed an ability to play professional cricket. But a young cricketer is recruited purely on potential.
Because it is a leap into the unknown, the recruitment of young players is in many ways a more exciting process. You meet people from very different backgrounds holding wide-ranging views and beliefs. It gives you an appreciation for our rainbow nation. You also get the chance to travel to far-flung destinations not normally associated with cricket like Polokwane, Fochville and Virginia.
The young cricketers and their parents (usually the father) are ambitious. Their aspirations are mostly untainted by the harsh realities of professional cricket in South Africa. To them, the cricket world is their oyster. I enjoy this interaction because it inevitably keeps me positive and energized.
One of the manifestations of this youthful optimism is the desire to one day play for the Proteas. I’ve always viewed it as one of the bedrocks of our cricket. As long as playing for the Proteas is the ultimate desire of our young cricketers, we’ll be okay.
Since we started One World of Sport in September 2006, my rough calculation is that we have met close to 1,000 young cricketers and their parents. In all these years I can only recall one cricketer who didn’t share the ambition to one day play for South Africa. (He had an EU passport and wanted to play county cricket straight out of school.) For the rest, never, not once, has a cricketer held a different ultimate ambition. Until now…
January 2020 has been a despondent cricket month. As if the performances of the Proteas against England and the U.19 at the World Cup were not bad enough, I have had to face for the first time young cricketers (four, to be exact) who have asked me straight up “how can I play for New Zealand?” And before anyone thinks of this as a racial issue, the question didn’t only come from white players.
For the first time in almost 14 years, I feel as if one of the bedrocks of our cricket is under threat – serious threat. These voices might only be squeaks now, but if Cricket South Africa doesn’t get its house in order they could become roars.