(Conversation overheard in a coffee shop, with some narrative licence.)
“After Coke Week [i.e. the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U.19 Cricket Week] he’ll spend Christmas with us and then play for the club. He’ll easily walk into the first team. He then wants to go to England to play some club cricket.” This is the father speaking.
“So he’s not going to study?” asks his friend.
“No. He could go to university if he wants to; as you know his marks are quite good. But he can start making money a lot quicker by playing cricket and can make a lot more money than in any other job,” answers the father.
“Oh, I didn’t realise that.” The friend sounds surprised. “Maybe I should tell my boy to quit his studies.” The two have a hearty chuckle. “But do you think he’ll get into the club’s first team?”
“Ja, easily,” the father confidently replies. “Just a bunch of ou toppies. He’ll teach them a thing or two about cricket.” Another hearty chuckle.
“And England, how’s he going to get there?” asks the friend.
“Ag, I’ll make a few phone calls in the new year. I have a few connections over there,” the father once again confidently replies.
“Is it that easy?”
“Ja, for sure. The visa is the only thing you don’t know how long it’s going to take. The trick is to get him to a club where he’ll be noticed by a county, so that he can get in some county games before he returns.”
The friend’s eyes are now like two saucers: “And next season here in South Africa?”
“I know the guys at the union. I’ll make sure he gets into the franchise squad.”
I then switched off because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Is this father the norm? I have no idea how he figured out this career plan for his son, but it is simply completely wrong: If your son can get a university qualification, he should try all he can to do so because there will come a time when cricket is over. Your son will not just walk into the local club’s first team, guaranteed (unless the club is very weak, in which case it’ll be useless for his cricket anyway). There is no way your son will get a club contract in England (unless you get him in under false pretences) and there is absolutely no way he’ll get close to county cricket (unless he has a UK passport). And I don’t know who you know at the union but let me promise you, your son won’t even smell the franchise squad.
Call me biased, but this scene illustrates exactly why every cricketer should have an agent. Or at least talk to an agent who can give him a reality check.
I was still sitting there, mulling over all I’ve just heard, when I was joined at my table by my client, a South African cricketer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the look on the faces of father and friend. The two saucers had become four dinner plates!