Cricket South Africa this week announced the establishment of a dedicated transformation fund, in line with the agreements they signed with the department of sport and Sascoc.
The fund will go towards improving facilities and creating more opportunities for youngsters to play cricket. As acting president Willie Basson pointed out at the launch, more than 80% of the population under the age of 15 is ethnic African.
“The transformation fund that has just been announced means there’s going to be greater effort in pushing for transformation and funds for new projects, but it’s all about our attitudes towards our country. If our attitude isn’t right, then it’s not going to happen. What’s in our hearts matters most and South African cricket will not be strong without its amateur base.
“Amateur cricket is a very important part of the development of a player and the South African team is only as strong as the amateur level beneath it,” Van Zyl said at the Gauteng cricket awards evening at the Wanderers on Thursday night.
The former national coach, last year’s bitter World Cup blow still fresh in his memory, said it was vital the structures beneath the national team were strong if South Africa were ever going to shake off their awful history in cricket’s most prestigious tournament.
Van Zyl’s appointment supplements the work done by Gary Kirsten and Mohammad Moosajee with the national team, Vinnie Barnes as head coach of the High Performance Centre, youth cricket manager Niels Momberg, senior cricket manager Max Jordaan and coaching education manager Anton Ferreira.
WHOLE CRICKET PIPELINE
“The general manager must look after the whole cricket pipeline. The different managers (Barnes, Momberg, Jordaan and Ferreira) report to me and I manage that whole pipeline from grassroots to the academy and the High Performance Centre.
“I also work closely with Doc Moosajee and Gary so that the messages they’re giving to the national team filter the whole way through the system,” Van Zyl said.
Despite representing South Africa when they first returned from isolation, and then coaching the national team from 2009 to 2011, Van Zyl expressly indicated that his most memorable cricket moments came at lower levels.
“My biggest highlight was winning trophies for Free State. I could have moved to another province, but I’m so glad I stayed home and won with my friends.
“The first trophy was the best, winning the Benson & Hedges Night Series final in Cape Town in 1989. The Cape Times were saying it would be four-in-a-row for Western Province so Joubert Strydom, our captain, and I stuck that message on the changeroom door. We ended up bowling them out for 152 and won by 61 runs.
“And my favourite cricket story also comes from my amateur days. It was against UCT in Grahamstown during the Universities Week. Just before SAU, Free State Varsity played in a six-a-side tournament in Bloem and a guy called Pierre Hugo dropped about six catches.
“Then against UCT, Roy Pienaar hits the ball to him on the fence. Pierre just walked backwards, over the rope and signalled six. Unfortunately the ball landed and stopped inside the boundary!” Van Zyl laughed.
The former fast bowler reserved special praise for those amateur administrators who serve the game for little reward.
“A guy like Ewie Cronje, the father of Hansie, was the president of Free State cricket but he never felt so high that he couldn’t go and roll the pitch, water the ground or sort out the covers on a Friday afternoon for club cricket on the weekend,” Van Zyl said.
Outgoing Gauteng Cricket Board head Ray Mali awarded President’s Awards to Joe Viljoen, for his work in the rural areas of the province, and Multichoice Group CEO Imtiaz Patel, for his pioneering work in Gauteng cricket development in the 1990s.
Long-service awards were presented to groundstaff member Bethuel Buthelezi, office assistant Rose Tseko and administrator Linda Watling.
The Highveld Lions Player of the Year award went to Neil McKenzie, who was also the Batsman of the Year for the 790 runs at 56.42 he scored in the SuperSport Series, 455 at 75.83 in the One-Day Cup and 250 at 41.66 in the MiWay T20 Challenge.
Chris Morris was the Bowler of the Year for his 23 SuperSport Series wickets at an average of 26.00 and his 21 T20 wickets at 12.66.
The Gauteng Strikers amateur team awards went to Graham Hume (bowler & player of the year) and Grant Mokoena (batsman).