Above: Thulani Khumalo of Easterns during the 2018 match between his team and Eastern Province. Picture: Supplied
Camaraderie and sportsmanship will be the name of the game at Michaelhouse this week. Cricket SA’s Nursery of Excellence, the Khaya Majola Week, kicks off at the Midlands school today (December 16 2019).
This is the 26th time the event, hosted by KZN Inland Schools Cricket Union, is being staged since the unification of SA Cricket in 1994, although the tournament has been running, in various guises since 1940.
It has never been hosted in Midlands before. At the 2013 event, which took place at Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill, Kagiso Rabada announced himself and, five years later, was the number one bowler in the world.
SA won the 2014 ICC Under-19 World Cup, with the majority of players having appeared at the Khaya Majola Week the year before.
Rabada was the undoubted star of the week, with Aiden Markram who, ironically, did not play in the Khaya Majola Week.
This emphasises the importance of the Khaya Majola Week as a nursery of international cricketers, while making the important point that missing selection at this level is not the end of the world for a young cricketer.
That said, the record shows that the majority of Proteas players in the various formats of the game who have been capped since 1994 played at the week and just about every one of the team currently in action against England appeared there.
Ninety-one graduates of the week have gone on the represent the country, including the most recent crop – Anrich Nortje, George Linde, Zubayr Hamza, Bjorn Fortuin, Senuran Muthusamy, Sinethemba Qeshile and Lutho Sipamla.
While the majority of SA Schools players have come from a relatively small number of institutions – the top three are Grey High School (24),
Grey College (16) and King Edward VII School (15) – the picture is changing, as Cricket SA’s efforts to transform the sport and provide opportunities to all players begin to bear fruit.
The talent development pipeline has been widened though the establishment of Regional Performance Centres (RPCs) and Development Hubs in rural areas, and through the designation of schools where potential has been identified, but which are struggling, as CSA Focus Schools which receive assistance from the association.
Players emerging from those structures are being picked up by the mainstream cricketing schools, being offered bursaries and being included in CSA’s talent acceleration programmes.
East London’s Hudson Park High School is a Focus School that is making an impact. Nine SA Schools players have come from the school since 2014, putting them ninth on the list of schools producing SA Schools caps. Sinethemba Qeshile, selected for the Proteas T20 team this year, is a product of the school.
There are graduates of the talent acceleration programme in many of the teams who will be in action at Michaelhouse in the coming days and, no doubt, many of them are destined for higher honours.
The games continue until Friday. On Saturday, the SA Schools team will play the SA Colts in a T20 game.