To make a star one needs enough heat and pressure to start nuclear fusion in a cloud of gas, but in a cricketing sense it’s all about CSA’s pipeline and KFC Mini-Cricket provides the masses of raw material that are necessary to find the ones that will glow brightly on fields around the country in the future.
KFC Marketing Director Thabisa Mkhwanazi says it is the biggest grassroots development program in the country, which is a big call, but the numbers back her up. More than 114 000 kids from 5584 schools were involved in the program last season, thanks to the dedication of nearly 9000 volunteer coaches and the excellent custodianship of CSA’s mass-participation manager, David Mokopanele.
Corrie van Zyl, CSA’s general manager of cricket, makes an even bigger call and says it is the best development program in the world. The fact that countries like Australia, India and England have been in contact wanting to know more about KFC Mini-Cricket, especially their marvellous Kids v Proteas Tour, suggests he may be correct.
I was privileged to attend the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar held in Kruger Park this week, which is an incentive for the top coaches of the previous season, a celebration of what has been achieved and a focused look at their future targets.
It may surprise some to know that I don’t recall hearing the word “transformation” once over the two days and that’s simply because, at that level, both coaches and players are already predominantly Black. Colour is one thing, but fixing the socio-economic conditions that make it so hard for any talented boy or girl to make it from the vast rural areas of our country is another matter altogether and KFC Mini-Cricket is probably the best weapon we have when it comes to taking the game to greater portions of our population.
Van Zyl was one of the speakers who addressed the delegates drawn from all 16 affiliates of Cricket South Africa and he pointed out in no uncertain terms that excellence at the highest level was non-negotiable, but that it was also dependent on grassroots development and vice-versa.
The former international fast bowler and national coach used the example of The Oaks Cricket Club from a small village near Hoedspruit where Cavaan Moyakamela, a coach with an extraordinary love for the game, mentors 70 children on a concrete slab.
“Imagine if a guy from The Oaks is chosen for the Limpopo U13 side, he will bring great passion and we can use and enhance that. Our dream is that a kid from that area can become a Protea, but there will be performance gaps – socio-economic factors that affect his health, physical and psychological development and his lifestyle – that we need to close for him.
“We cannot change the benchmark of international cricket, we have to take the players to that standard, and the responsibility of our coaches is to get the player there. If we don’t maintain excellence at international level then the grassroots suffers because we need money to develop that. They both depend on each other because the grassroots is the base of our game.
“KFC Mini-Cricket is the biggest part of that base, it is strong and built on the passion and dedication of the coaches. If we are to maintain excellence then we need quality coaching, so we need to grow coaches so the kids can grow under them. The growth of the program has been so good that with that base, the cream will rise to the top,” Van Zyl said.
Temba Bavuma spoke movingly about how he was first introduced to cricket via the program, getting to run around on the same Newlands ground where he scored his historic maiden Test century last summer; AB de Villiers is also a product, while the program is going strong in the remote regions of the former Transkei and Limpopo. It’s reach will only increase thanks to the wonderful news that KFC have extended their sponsorship of the program for another 10 years.
When the Kids v Proteas Tour came to Umtata, it was like the world’s greatest bazaar had hit town, such was the reaction.
“It brought Umtata to a standstill! Their little school was playing against the Proteas and it was magical. Many of the communities we have stores in hunger for this sort of development and our dream is for young people to look back and remember ‘the day KFC came to my small town with cricket’,” Mkhwanazi says.