The KwaZulu Natal Cricket Union Development Programme

    Sane Khuzwayo, Township Development Manager for the KwaZulu Natal Cricket Union, rightly points out that cricket has “an incredible power to bring happiness and a sense of purpose into young people’s lives”. And whereas the Development Programme attempts to find and nurture talent that can one day play at the highest levels, Ms Khuzwayo strongly believes that the heart of her work revolves around making a positive contribution to the oftentimes difficult lives of underprivileged children, both boys and girls. She goes on to say that bringing cricket into a township setting is like “watering a struggling plant – the beneficial effects are immediate”.

    For underprivileged school children aged between 7 and 10, the KFC Mini Cricket initiative is their first exposure to the game. Up until participation in mini cricket, many of the township children have never played with a ball before, let alone a bat. From KFC Mini Cricket, children move onto the “hard ball” (that is, the normal leather cricket ball). This is where the KwaZulu Natal Cricket Union Development Programme comes into full force.

    Throughout the school year, talent scouts attend township school matches and identify teams and players who display considerable cricketing skill. They are then invited to take part in the Township Schools Tournament, co-sponsored by both, the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation and Sunfoil. The tournament caters for an impressive total of 336 students, and is held annually at Hilton College. From the 336, 72 young stars are chosen to be included in the various Elite Development Squads. These individuals are then tested to the max by competing against the top teams from well-known cricketing schools. From here, provincial selection is a possibility, and selection for the Hollywoodbets Dolphins High Performance Academy is also a prospect.

    The success of the Development Programme can hardly been denied: 44 young scholars were chosen to represent the various boys’ and girls’ provincial teams in the current season alone, and 13 future heroes from this year’s programme have earned scholarships to KZN’s top cricketing schools. Cricket is therefore affording these deserving scholarship recipients an educational opportunity usually reserved only for the financially better-off.

    Additionally, there are several cherries on top of the Development Programme’s admirable success story. This season, four young men have been selected to attend the High Performance Academy, and Smangaliso Nhlebela and Sbonelo Cyril Mthimkhulu have signed semi-professional contracts with the province. Perhaps most notably, in the 2014/2015 season, Nondumiso Shangase and Lungi Khwela were both chosen for the women’s national squad – a truly fantastic achievement.

    Khuzwayo looks forward to continuing with the KwaZulu Natal Cricket Union Development Programme, and is confident that her project of enriching young lives will grow future leaders. We certainly wish her the very best.

    Find out when the next Hollywoodbets Dolphins cricket game is taking place at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.

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