Who is the best 18-year-old cricketer in South Africa? And let’s just momentarily dispense with the men-is-so-much-better-than-women-argument led by the former legendary tennis star John McEnroe.
Western Province has announced the appointments of several highly acclaimed and decorated coaches in key positions to further entrench their pipeline structures as the province, one of the country’s premier nurseries in producing national players, prepare for the 2018 season.
Paul Adams’ appointment as Western Province Academy and provincial U19 coach was confirmed by the Western Province Cricket Association on Tuesday.
Adams won five trophies during his tenure as coach of the Cape Cobras. He represented South Africa in 45 tests and 24 One Day Internationals.
Siya Sibiya, one of the coaches under whose watch Western Province won the CSA Incentive Scorecard category two academy program in 2017, has been appointed as coach of the Western Province U15 and U17 teams.
Charles Clacher is the newly appointed Western Province coaching education manager.
Jerry Malilwana will take charge of the Western Province U11 and U13 teams.
“We feel confident that the appointment of these coaches will provide Western Province with a sound platform to develop talented teens into 21-year-old franchise players with the technical prowess, the sound temperaments and the self-belief to make Western Province and the Cobras realistic trophy hunters in all three formats,” said Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA).
“We believe that as custodians of the under-age players, these coaches will fulfill their mission to provide an expert foundational phase for the future excellence of their charges,” Dien added.
“The past two seasons, our HUBS program and our Academy were award-winning entities and these appointments will add to our effectiveness. I am overjoyed,” said Clinton du Preez, manager of amateur cricket at WPCA.
Beresford Williams, president of the WPCA, says the appointments are important, because it show deliberate intent to nurture talent from a very young age. “It is an exciting new chapter of Western Province and ultimately might bolster amateur, semi-professional and professional cricket,” he added
What do you need to do to win 9 out of 11 trophies on offer, triumph in 21 from 23 T20-matches and mesmerize the opposition in 51 50-over matches while only losing five times?
Cobus Roodt, coach of the all-conquering Western Province women’s team, provided a few insightful answers to the mystery and shared the winning formula behind one of the proudest records in world cricket.
Yet, one had to look beyond the star qualities in the team to find the correct answer.
Western Province was without their superb fast bowler Shabnim Ismail for the last season, while Bernadine Bezuidenhout immigrated to New Zealand, so it was not only the world-class stars that elevated them to champions. It was a very young squad that took care of all-comers.
Western Province won two of the three titles on offer the past season and only came a cropper in the semi-final of the national 50-over tournament in Bloemfontein where they were defeated by North West in the semi-finals, a defeat that Roodt attributes to a lack of clinical focus and perhaps a little bit of complacency.
Roodt said one of the most important qualities in a winning squad is the team culture and the family spirit. It is about team members achieving great feats for one another, playing for the star next to them in the trenches.
The annual team-building weekends away have done much to improve the bonds and friendships in the team.
Alexis le Breton and her vice-captain Robyn Appels have led the team well, made instinctive decisions on the field that aided the team’s dominance.
And Roodt has also been a meticulous planner. “I always say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Roodt is proud of the fact that many of the players in the squad are younger than 25, which makes their feats so much more noteworthy and extraordinary.
“Saarah Smith is 18, Laura Wolvaardt is 18, Lara Goodall is 21 and Tala Ross is 20, while Tatum le Roux is 24.
“Alexis is the eldest, but I want us to get away from the culture in the country where women retire in their mid-twenties. I feel that you must stir the passion so that the players stay excited and enthusiastic about playing,” he said.
Andrie Steyn was one of the standout players, averaging 57.33 in the 50-over competition, while Laura Wolvaardt averaged 44.4 in the same competition. The spinner Appels captured 15 wickets at an average of 17.60.
Steyn averaged 65 in the T20 campaign at a strike-rate of 102.36 and Goodall boasted an average of 53 while smashing it at a strike-rate of 126.19.
He is proud of the spinner Nadia Mbokotwana, who was the Western Province school player of the year in 2016/2017. He has been nurturing her the past three years and at national level there is a growing awareness that she is a special talent and evolving fast. She did not have the best of seasons after two previous sensational years, but he is not too concerned about that, Roodt said. “Things like that happen.”
Saarah Smith is an emerging middle-order batsman and averaged 33.50 the past season. He is excited about her batting and the fact that she bats around the experienced Le Breton is a bonus.
The 16-year-old Leah Jones is a bowling all-rounder and she is developing at the rate of knots.
“What is so amazing about this team is that in five years we have been virtually unbeatable and there are so many players who are not yet 20. The discipline in the team is something special, and we don’t enforce team rules. The team as a unit, make the rules, I don’t instil it, the team decides on those rules.
“Ultimately, the team deserves enormous credit for what they have achieved over five years of excellence,” he said.
The enjoyment factor, focusing on fortifying and improving the second and third teams and socializing together, were key factors in the University of Cape Town (UCT) winning arguably one of the most popular and elite trophies at the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) awards-evening, said Don Paterson, the chairman of the club.
“I think to really have a social aspect to the club was a factor that assisted us. To play in a two-day competition when you are a student can be a challenge so the enjoyment factor is important,” said Paterson.
UCT appointed an assistant first-team coach Bulelani Libazi to support Ryan Maron and Hayden Higgs took over the mantle as second-team coach.
The first team finished third in the First Division A League, the second team ended third in Reserve B, the third team won Reserve F and boasted a clean disciplinary record, Paterson said.
The club realized the importance of strengthening the quality of the second and third team, thereby increasing the depth of the squad and raising the bar for the first team. There was no room for complacency as it became more competitive, Paterson remarked.
“Over the last few years, UCT has not done well and we have fallen away a bit, but we have reassessed the structures and also emphasized the importance of enjoying the game and one another’s company on the field,” he said.
“The players are seriously up-beat about the award, and that our efforts have paid off. Now it is a case of onwards and upwards to the next level,” he said
When Neo Mlumbi was eight, he saw the images of cricketers on a breakfast cereal box. It was the moment his intimate relationship with the game started.
Remarkably, within 365 days of playing in a township final at PPC Newlands on 12th April 2016, the 21-year-old Mlumbi, born and bred in Mandalay, was picked as one of the contracted semi-professional players of the Cape Cobras for the 2017/2018-season.
Arguably the two turning points of his career came at that township final at Newlands and in a match for the Western Province Academy against the Western Province semi-professional team.
Dropped on a duck in the final between Mandalay and Langa, Mlumbi steadied himself, struck a half-century and powered Mandalay to a win in a nerve-wrecking match that went down to the wire.
“I was trying to make an impression. There was a lot of tension at the start before I decided I needed to bat until the 20th over to ensure a win,” he said.
The Western Province amateur manager, Clinton du Preez, contacted his coach and manager Mfundo Liwani and requested that he join the Western Province Academy.
Things started off a bit shakily, and in his first match he was removed for a duck.
But subsequently, his improvement was steady, and at times, spectacular.
Mlumbi struck a few half-centuries. In a clash against the Western Province semi-professional team, he managed a ton.
“I think that is when they realized that I had some talent,” he said.
“I was always dreaming at school about at least playing semi-professional cricket, professional cricket and even for South Africa.
“I always liked Michael Clarke, the way he played, his personality and his conduct off the field. When he retired, Temba Bavuma became my role model. He became my hero after his century at PPC Newlands,” he said.
Mlumbi said he has ironed out technical issues and is now focussing on the basics, like getting into correct positions, executing well and keeping his head still.
“I started the past week to work with Ashwell Prince and my academy coach, Siya Sibiya. It is such a privilege to work with a former South African player like Ashwell and I take everything in that he is saying to me, making sure I take full advantage of his presence,” he said.
“Western Province has been fantastic in dealing with me and in aiding my development,” he said.
“Last year in the off-season I worked with Laurie Ward of Montague Gardens twice a week, and my skills level improved.
“I know now, after five first-class games, that I must improve my skills level even more,” he says.
“I love everything about batting – the drive, the cut, the hook – but perhaps the shot I enjoy the most, is the drive over cover,” he says.
Experts like Du Preez, a selector of the South African women’s team, has remarked that Mlumbi possesses the traits of a good player. He has time to play his shots, execute them at the last moment and hits the ball crisply.
Mlumbi’s breakthrough season was completed when he was awarded the WPCA Academy Player of the Season at the recent WPCA Awards evening.
“My goal for this season is just to perform as well as possible. Ultimately, the ‘me’ is not as important as contributing well for the team’s sake,” Mlumbi concluded
It is not only the tale of the tape – he is broad-shouldered and 1.90 metres tall and his surname is Ntini – that impresses observers and analysts the most about the 16-year-old Thando Ntini with whom the Western Province Academy interim head coach and recently awarded WPCA Coach of the Year, Siya Sibiya, has worked tirelessly to propel him into the South African U19 team.
“Sure, he is Makhaya Ntini’s son,” says Cricket South Africa’s Head of Tertiary and Youth Cricket Niels Momberg, “But what really strikes me, is his natural talent,” he says.
Makhaya Ntini captured 390 wickets for South Africa and is a legendary former Proteas’ fast bowler.
“Thando hits good areas regularly and nips the ball around, thereby creating pressure,” said Momberg, who has been working at CSA for 19 years.
“I think he can bowl at 135 km/h once he grows a bit stronger,” he said.
Sibiya thinks the young Ntini can bowl 140 km/h or faster and is a prodigious talent. He swings the new ball a bit, but moves it off the seam as well. And his dedication and determination as well as work ethic has impressed Sibiya enormously.
Western Province have taken Ntini under their wings while he is playing for Wynberg High School.
They gave him a trial run at a Colts one-day match in Durbanville and he impressed immensely.
At the Colts week in Potchefstroom, he bowled superbly and also put in some decent performances with the bat.
Sibiya said when he failed at number four against KwaZulu-Natal and struggled against the spinners, he went into the nets and spent a long time with the Cape Cobras Colts to improve his game.
In his next match, against Northerns, he was undefeated on 40 and played the spinners well.
Two years ago, while still at Selborne College, Ntini was perceived to be an extremely promising left-handed top-order star.
“Now he is seen as a potential phenomenal opening bowler who can become South Africa’s first true black all-rounder,” said Sibiya.
And the coach said he was enormously impressed with the determination and ambition of Ntini. He said while he was training at the Western province Academy under Sibiya, he ran from the high-performance centre to Wynberg Boys High and back. He did this four times per week.
At boarding school, he gets up six o’ clock in the morning and sprints around the track. He has invited some of the other athletes to join him.
The young Ntini is aggressive, is not afraid to slip in a fast bouncer or a yorker.
The next step is representing South Africa at U19 level in July against the West Indies in Pietermaritzburg and Durban. “To a certain agree, he is already following in Makhaya’s footsteps, because Makhaya represented the SA U19 team in 1995,” Momberg said.
“One other thing I like about him, is his action. He has a very good action,” Momberg commented.
“He is a very focused young man and he wants to go the distance, without the aid of his father,” said Sibiya
A superb club cricket structure that is religiously supported by a passionate community, excellent progress by the decorated Siya Sibiya, splendid performances by the University of Cape Town club and a tsunami of runs by Pieter Malan were some of the standout-features of Western Province club cricket in 2016/2017, said Clinton du Preez, the WPCA Amateur Cricket Manager.
Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) celebrated the most outstanding club and individual performances at the annual awards evening on Saturday 20th May.
Du Preez applauded club cricket, saying it was a huge success. The fact that 67 clubs plied their trades, is a testimony to the passion and love for the game which receives remarkable community support. “There is a good culture of community involvement in the game.
“Last season Western Province won the club cricket award on the CSA Incentive Scorecard and the only reason we dropped to number three is that we did not have a black African club in the Premier division.
“Because of geo-political changes, we will have a black African club in the Premier division and one in the first division next season,” he added.
“Siya served as hub coach at Primrose, then rose to the position as assistant coach at the Western Province academy and after Salieg Nackerdien took over at Western Province, he was the interim-head coach of the Academy.
“Western Province won the category two CSA award on the incentive scorecard and Siya must be congratulated for the enormous role he played.
“He also sometimes assisted at the Cape Cobras and was instrumental in assisting Thando Ntini to get into the South African U19 team,” said Du Preez.
“We must also take notice of the dwindling numbers in our club structures and the water restrictions around some of the facilities, which are sources of concern,” said Du Preez.
“Generally though, we possess healthy club structures, and we can only admire the work done by administrators on a voluntary base at clubs to retain its cutting-edge qualities. Without club cricket, which is the heartbeat of cricket in every province, we would be infinitely poorer,” Du Preez said.
He congratulated the University of Cape Town, the club of the year.
XstraSpace Bellville Cricket Club won the Premier League in the 2016/2017-season.
Milnerton was the last man standing in the first division A league and Strandfontein was the winner in first division B league.
Malan, who only turned out for the Durbanville club occasionally, slammed 1069 runs for the Western Province semi-professional team and was awarded with a professional contract for the 2017/2018 season.
In the Grand Challenge One-Day Cup, Rondebosch won the spoils, while Durbanville lifted the silverware in the AMA20/20 Premier League.
Malan was the first-class player of the year and Andrie Steyn the women’s player of the year.
Strandfontein received the elite award as the most sporting team of the year.
UWC and Bellville shared the trophy in the women’s league of 2016/2017.
Jesse Christensen was the U19-youth player of the year and Nadia Mbokotwana was his women counterpart as U19 youth player of the year.
Neo Mlumbi won the Academy Player of the Season Award.
Western Province underlined its enormous reserve strength and deep reservoir of talent as well as the solidity of its pipeline structures when the CSA Incentive Scorecard announced its winners who exceeded in delivering the basic activities and compliance requirements of the CSA operating and funding objectives on Monday.
In category two, Western Province and Northerns were announced joint winners of the Provincial Academy and Personal Performance Plan.
Salieg Nackerdien, coach of the academy and interim coach of the Western Province semi-professional team, hailed the team work and the excellent support by Graham October (administrator) and Siya Sibiya (assistant coach) in propelling the Academy to the summit in their category of the CSA Incentive Scorecard.
“We as a leadership team brain-stormed, wrestled with concepts, and our robust planning helped to ensure that the team operated optimally.
“Both Siya and I had a personal performance plan, had a one-on-one with each player to discuss our goals for the season. We had a mid-term review and an end-of-season discussion.
“We played comfortably more than 30 games. In our match against the Western Province semi-professional team, we triumphed.
“In fact, our win/loss ratio was very impressive. We won between 80 and 85 percent of all our matches.
“This accolade means the world to the academy, to all the staff and to the players. I believe it is also significant because the foundations for the next step – to the WP semi-professional team – are sound.
“This team won four out of the five one-day games in the Western Province league.
“But this was about more than just winning. It was about strictly sticking to the criteria and to ensure that the team is a living and walking billboard of the quality of the academy program,” Nackerdien said.
“This is an award which belongs to the whole support staff and the team not to a single individual. It bodes well for the medium-term future of Western Province and indeed Cape Cobras’ cricket.”
Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Cape Cobras, said he was proud of the advances made by Western Province in finishing fourth in category one behind Northerns, Gauteng and Free State.
Yet, winning the incentive scorecard in 2018 remains the ultimate goal. Western Province will assess the scorecard and take deliberate steps to improve under-performing categories.
“An idea that is not executed, is an illusion, so our practical implementation plans will be formulated soon and reviewed intermittently to lift our operational standards and achieve platinum status,” Dien said.
Arguably South Africa’s most picturesque ground, PPC Newlands, also boasts the best groundsman in the country, Evan Flint, and that is official.
At the Cricket South Africa awards ceremony on Saturday, Flint scooped up the elite award as the country’s finest curator, while the Western Province cricketer and new acquisition of the professional squad of the Cape Cobras, Pieter Malan lifted the cup as the Sunfoil Cup Three-Day Cricketer of the Year.
Malan scored 1069 runs at an average of 118.77 and was almost a pencil-in as three-day semi-professional cricketer of the year.
Shamiel Howley of Western Province received the prize as CSA deaf cricketer of the year.
PPC Newlands has seen steadily improving performances in the 50-over domestic showpiece. The team batting second, now enjoys almost a 50/50 chance of clinching it. Prior to Flint’s arrival in 2008, the team batting first in white-ball cricket, had a distinct advantage.
With Flint at the helm, some dramatic tests between South Africa and England were on the brinks of results, but the visitors held out for draws. In 2009/2010, South Africa was one wicket away from ecstasy but England defied the attack at PPC Newlands.
In 2015/2016, England blasted 629 for six declared and South Africa replied with 627 for seven, thanks to a double ton from Hashim Amla and a maiden hundred from Temba Bavuma.
Alistair Cook and his troops almost stumbled to defeat at 159 for six in the second innings before steadying the ship. More than 85 000 people flocked to one of the most enjoyable and dramatic tests on South African soil in many years, and Flint’s meticulous preparations behind the scenes set up a tantalizing contest after lunch on day five.
Flint said the arrival of a new roller in 2013 possibly made Newlands a tad more batsman-friendly and batsmen could play more freely on the up.
But he says the low totals in the 2011 Test at PPC Newlands had little to do with the pitch. He said Australia scored well in the first innings thanks to Michael Clarke’s 151. Bad shot-making and good bowling was the deadly cocktail which resulted in South Africa scoring 96 in their first innings and Australia crumbling to 47 all out after Vernon Philander nipped out 5-17.
In the second innings, South Africa raced to 236 for two. “I am still scratching my head over it, but I think it is a combination of good bowling and batsmen trying to dominate too much,” he added.
The same situation occurred in 2012/2013 when Dale Steyn, Philander and Morné Morkel, who were at the peak of their powers, just operated brilliantly to dismiss New Zealand for a lowly 45.
“The award is a triumph for the whole ground staff, not only for me. It doesn’t happen that often that a coastal curator gets the award. It might be a tad easier up-country, as situations change a lot, and quicker at coastal grounds,” says Flint.
“The Bidvest Wanderers Stadium’s curator won it many times consecutively. In terms of confidence, I guess it is good to have it on your CV that you are the curator of the year, but it is more difficult to stay at the top,” said Flint.
The past season, there have been some phenomenal scores at PPC Newlands in the Momentum One Day Cup campaign, which included 400 for three by the Multiply Titans and 305 for six by the Warriors.
“I guess the new Newlands might help the top and middle order a bit in the sense that you can play on the up more freely.
“But what I like about the ground is that in the first two hours of the morning session on the opening day, the ball is moving around, and only when the sun starts baking down in the afternoon does it flatten out.”
Flint says it cannot be said generally that the team prescribes what the character of the pitch should be. Yet, he is not going to prepare a spinner’s paradise if South Africa’s strengths are their fast bowling.
It can generally be said that the South African team has become more confident and, with England, are arguably the best performing units when the ball is nipping around, Flint remarked.
“If I can have my way, I try to prepare a pitch which will last for four or five days, but it doesn’t always pan out that way, and the atmospheric conditions also play a role,” Flint said
– South African cricket supporters might be hard-pressed to find an answer to the question as to who Neo Mlumbi is, even if they were allowed to phone a friend. But don’t despair. The answer will be on the tip of the tongue of most Cape Cobras supporters soon. Yes, his fame can spread fast as he attractively establishes his foot print with the blade as a member of the Western Province cricket team.
Mlumbi (21) has played in five first-class games, averaging 14.50 with his 47 against Easterns his finest contribution. He has produced glimpses of greatness the past two years.
The first time Clinton du Preez, amateur cricket manager of the Western Province Cricket Association, watched Mlumbi, was two years ago in a Township final between Langa and Mandalay at PPC Newlands.
Neo previously represented WP in the Youth “B” age group teams and was a member of the Mandalay CC.
“I liked the way he stroked the ball during that match, and went up to him afterwards and spoke to him,” Du Preez, who is an astute talent spotter, said. He was invited to trial at the WP provincial academy. The coaches enjoyed the player and added him to the squad for the 2016/17 season.
“During the pre-season, he represented the Western Province Cricket Academy against the Western Province senior team and struck a century which gave him and the coaches a lot of confidence,” reflected Du Preez.
“At the Western Province Academy he showed glimpses of good form and made his debut for the Western Province senior provincial team and made a score of 47.
Recently he participated at the national Colts week and was selected for the South African Colts team that participated in the CSA Future Cup.
“He is a very flexible player, who shows much skill in all areas with the bat around the crease and strikes the ball crisply. The upcoming winter requires that he makes the hard yards with his coaches and this will enhance his preparation for the ensuing season” he said.
“It would be far-fetched for me to say that Neo is the next Temba Bavuma, but I believe he can follow in his foot-steps,” Du Preez said when comparing Mlumbi to the South African middle-order batsmen who hammered his maiden test century in front of an ecstatic PPC Newlands crowd in January 2016.
“I discussed his future goals with him when meeting him this past week and he said his vision is to establish himself in the Cape Cobras side, possibly advance and hopefully get into the South Africa A squad,” Du Preez said.
If Mlumbi can continue the impressive upward curve that saw him step into the Western Provincial team the past season, the public will soon produce the answer about his identity without a moment’s hesitation.
And the boardroom is abuzz with discussions about the 21-year old’s talent. That’s why he is one of the seven semi-professional players who have just been picked by the Western Province selection committee and the Coaches for next season.
Is he a future Bavuma? Only time will tell, but Mlumbi is determined to lift his game to new heights in 2017/2018 and create his own legacy.