Eight months ago, Clive Eksteen was ‘just’ a former Test cricketer whose passion for the sport remained. But now he has to apply the same cunning he showed as a spin bowler to Cricket South Africa’s commercial operations and this week he was dishing out praise to the KFC Mini-Cricket programme where it all begins in terms of the game in this country.
“This is where it all starts, it would be so much harder for us to implement our plans without a program like this,” Eksteen told the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar at Kruger Park. “This is not only about the pipeline, it goes way beyond that. We want to get cricket to all 55 million people in this country, to create a love for the game. Cricket has got to make a difference in this country, it has to play a crucial role, and it starts with the little kids. There are more than 100 000 involved in the programme, thanks to the more than 8000 coaches, which is enough to fill all six of our international stadia.”
“When Temba Bavuma played that awesome knock at Newlands, the TV ratings went through the roof and from that we can see how big this game can become in South Africa. We had 14 million unique viewers watching cricket last season and there were 500 000 tickets sold for people to go watch the cricket at the ground, which is 68% more than the previous year,” Eksteen said as he applied factual numbers rather than spin to his mode of attack.
For CSA, it is just as important to cultivate customers for their product: to have cricket fans going to the matches or watching on TV.
“We have the most diverse following of any sport in South Africa but we’re not finished yet, cricket must get to every part of the country, we want to create a passion for the game. It’s a hard sport, but it teaches you a lot and you make friends for life.
“There’s no doubt we have fantastic talent second to none, but not all the kids will become reasonable cricketers let alone internationals. But they can become passionate followers and that’s a win for us from a commercial point of view. Full stadia, people watching the game, that’s what drives the sport. For sponsors, it ultimately comes down to numbers and when your first program starts with over 100 000 kids, from very diverse backgrounds, then that’s a massive plus.
“Coaches make the biggest impact on kids and KFC Mini-Cricket creates that passion and love for the game, it’s our flagship program and the beginning of how we sustain the game,” Eksteen said.