October 16, 2015

South African cricket brimming with young prospects

Last year's World Cup-winning Under-19 squad is graduating to senior cricket, and the future looks good for most of them
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Twenty-year-old Clyde Fortuin is Warriors' first-choice keeper this season © Getty Images

Imagine if there were others from where Kagiso Rabada came from. Imagine more potential match-winners and record-breakers whose careers have only just begun. You don't have to imagine too hard. They are already out there.

Rabada came from a South African squad that made history when it won the Under-19 World Cup on March 1, 2014. The senior side has tried six times and failed. The youngsters were, as South Africa's sports minister Fikile Mbalula put it, "a bunch of winners", and Rabada is not the only one who will bloom.

"All of them have the potential to make it big," Ray Jennings, who coached the U-19 squad, said. "Kagiso was obviously the stand out, and there might end up being two halves - those who go on and actually make it and those who just fade away, but all of them have what it takes."

Clyde Fortuin, a wicketkeeper from Western Cape, had the most dismissals at the World Cup - 19 catches and a stumping - double that of his nearest competitor, and has been signed by Warriors as their first-choice keeper across all formats this season.

Andile Phehlukwayo played for Dolphins in the Champions League last season © Getty Images

"We recognised that he could come into our set-up and balance the team. Of course, he still needs to make sure he selects himself through performance, but we signed him with the intention of him being our No. 1," Malibongwe Maketa, Warriors coach, said.

Fortuin is replacing Davy Jacobs, who hung up his gloves after a prolonged period of injury. He will some face competition for the spot from Gihahn Cloete, who played in the 2012 U-19 World Cup.

At 23, Cloete, who also moved provinces after playing in the Free State for the last five seasons, is three years older than Fortuin, but experience may not trump youth at Warriors. "Fortuin is quiet and down to earth but with a little bit of arrogance. He really believes in his own ability," Maketa said. "He has come on his own into a foreign environment and that already shows a lot of maturity. We want to make sure we can create an environment for him to grow and give him as much opportunity as we can to perform."

That has already been happening for two of Rabada's other team-mates - allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo and fast bowler Sibonelo Makhanya. They are both on Dolphins' books and are fast establishing themselves as regular members of the set-up.

Chad Bowes, who played the 2012 U-19 World Cup for South Africa, has moved to New Zealand in hope of better opportunities © ICC/Getty

Last year they travelled with the team to the Champions League T20, where Phehlukwayo played in all four Dolphins games. It was tough going for him - he only bowled four overs and went wicketless at the tournament - but he got exposure on a grand scale. This summer, they have both been part of the Africa T20 Cup squad and are playing in the ongoing domestic one-day cup.

Phehlukwayo and Makhanya are not only crossing the bridge from U-19 to franchise cricket. They are also two success stories among several promising black African players - the demographic group Cricket South Africa is targeting in a bid to overcome apartheid's legacy of marginalisation. They are what happens when transformation works.

Both come from humble backgrounds. Phelukwayo is the child of a single parent who was a domestic worker; Makhanya grew up in the township of Verulam, about 30 kilometres outside Durban, and had to travel more than 60km to get to school daily.

They received scholarships to Glenwood High, the alma mater of South Africa Test cricketer Steven Jack, to ensure they had access to better facilities and coaching.

Makhanya was eventually offered a scholarship that included boarding at Durban High School, where Hashim Amla and Barry Richards studied. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian last year, he recalled the difficulties of settling in and overcoming the odds.

"It was the first time that I was exposed to that kind of a world. When I first got to Glenwood I had my tired, cheap kit, and I looked up to white guys. Then I grew up and became more mature and began to understand where I want to be in life," he said. Now it seem as though he is getting there.

Class of 2014: South Africa's World Cup-winning U-19 squad with the trophy © ICC

Lower down in the system, at the semi-professional provincial level, Rabada's World Cup captain, Aiden Markram, South Africa's top run scorer in the tournament, has a contract with Titans. Markram opened the batting for Northerns in the Africa T20 Cup and scored a half-century in the semi-final against the Kwa-Zulu Natal team Phehlukwayo and Makhanya were part of. Markram, along with Fortuin and Corbin Bosch, was also part of the South Africa Emerging squad that toured Sri Lanka in August, and he and Bosch are currently part of the University of Pretoria squad in India defending their World Campus Title.

Five other members of that champion U-19 team are also part of university outfits - Dirk Bruwer played for University of Free State, Justin Dill for Stellenbosch University, Ngazibini Sigwili is at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, Jason Smith turns out for University of the Western Cape and Yaseen Valli is at the University of Johannesburg. And all of them are involved in provincial outfits as well.

Jennings believes they are the players most likely to be on the right path to success because they are giving themselves options not dependent on cricket. "Players need to get educated to do other things because a lot of sports people, especially young players, can overrate themselves. They think because they have school colours they are heroes and the world owes them a living, but that's not the case," he said. "Varsity is important. You need to be educated and learn to feel the heat of life so that when you are 21 or 22, you're not still getting out of bed at 11am and going to the movies at 12 and that's your day."

Ngazibini Sigwili is one of several young players playing for South African universities © ICC

But what about those who feel their chances of becoming professional sportsmen take too long? Bradley Bopp, part of the World Cup team, has decided to try his luck in the UK, while former U-19 captain Chad Bowes, who was South Africa's second highest run scorer behind Quinton de Kock at the 2012 World Cup, has emigrated to New Zealand and hopes to qualify to play for them after failing to make headway at Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Jennings does not see a talent drain as a potential pitfall of a system that sometimes makes players wait for a contract. "It's always a good idea to achieve your dream and if you can't achieve it where you are, you may have to go somewhere else. You must have a positive, energetic system with a good structure that is pushing people from the bottom up. That's when you know it's working."

Rabada and Co are proof of that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shipu on October 17, 2015, 8:47 GMT

    This article doesn't make sense. How many of those under-19 players are playing in South Africa's main team or first class competition? They still cannot produce a quality spinner which is a must in subcontinental pitches. Rabada? yes he has had a good start, but lets wait and see if he can continue to develop or fade. De Kock had a great start and now he is stuggling. South Africa's under-19 team right now has no chance of winning the next tournament because these players are not good enough. Getting badly beaten 11-3 by Bangladesh under-19 home/away is proof of that. No! they don't really have "prospects" if you analyse it carefully.

  • jared on October 17, 2015, 5:55 GMT

    Chad Bowes, I'll keep an eye out for that name, I feel sorry for south Africa in some ways, they lose probably more talent over seas than any other nation I reckon, and good talent too, hard to retain everyone when you have so much I guess, even worse when one of their own knocks them out of a world cup semi but It is a credit to south African cricket, nz cricket needs to try harder in alot of ways to introduce more Polynesian and moari cricketers into the game, I think if we are ever going to be one of the big boys of world cricket its not just something we should do but more like something we need to do. Thanks for Chad Bowes though we are always a little light on batting talent in nz.

  • Manika on October 17, 2015, 5:52 GMT

    PROTEA92

    Just a bit off topic due to your comment on Indian bowling,, ,,Anil Kumble,Srinath,Zaheer,Harbhajan,Ashwin,Chandreshekar,Prassana,Subhash Gupte,Bedi , Vinoo Mankad , Kapil Dev,Nissar , Amar Singh to name a few. SO kindly think about history brother before making a comment.

    With due respect , SA obviously have some talent. What if some one question , about SA and their spin reserves. So , respect every team and its history . Every country is unique . India have had some unthinkable batting reserves , which SA can never match. So , these things is what makes cricket so interesting.

    If SA have had everything , or India have had everything , only they would have won every time. So , lets respect what every team presents. On that account , Pakistan have had some legendary pacers , and still producing at will , and even spinners , so every nation has its strengths. India has its own strengths.

  • John on October 17, 2015, 5:43 GMT

    @baghels.a - Time will tell how these youngsters turn out. From past U19 WCs, only 1-2 actually would go on to cement their place at the international level anyway. First Class Cricket =/= Test Cricket. Shikkar Dhawan made his test debut 9 years after winning man of the tournament at the 2004 U19 WC while Alastair Cook is well on his way 10k test runs.

  • Pride on October 17, 2015, 4:31 GMT

    I prefer quality over quantity any day of the week. Those saying India & Bangladesh have more youngsters playing are forgetting that India has a population of 5 billion while SA population is about 50 million. India are yet to produce a fast bowler with that population.

  • barun on October 17, 2015, 3:25 GMT

    I think there should be a an under 23 tournament so that we can determine the under 19 stars who can make it big in international cricket.

  • Diganta Sarkar on October 16, 2015, 23:52 GMT

    I disagree with the post even though I like team SA. The SA U-19 team just recently lost both home and away against Bangladesh. Their intrinsic problem against spin is still there and I see no improvement in getting a good spinner. The future of cricket is probably in Asia with Bangladesh is already there and Nepal and Afghanistan just waiting to join others.

  • Blessing on October 16, 2015, 23:23 GMT

    Just got back from the game at Sahara Kingsmead and I am so pleased to see the two young guns mentioned here from the Dolphins. One bowled well and the other contributed beautifully with the bat forming a 50 run partnership with Cody Chetty smashing the former #1 ranked ODI bowler in the world Lopsy Tsotsobe for some valuable runs. Nice to see Viljoen cracking up the pace as well. The haters here may hate all they like but we the #1 ranked test team and have some young talent waiting in the wings to step up to the Proteas and help us stay there.

  • Roshan on October 16, 2015, 21:37 GMT

    What's heartening to see is lots of young black African cricketers. They are the majority ethnic group in South Africa so it only makes sense to get more of them interested in cricket, and of course you need to provide them with greater opportunities. When Makhaya Ntini played I think a lot of people thought that more and more black Africans would get involved in the game, and maybe now Rabada and co are the seeds of his legacy. Many of them seem to be fast bowlers, so it would be interesting to see if they really did come in to the game because of Ntini.

  • Philip on October 16, 2015, 19:58 GMT

    It is great to see progress whatever part of the world...It is the performance of the youth that gives us an indication of the future. What great sportsmen (in this case cricketers) that SA have produced. Reminds of a conveyor belt. Protea92 - is absolutely right. Sad that we see some characters who are more intent in dismissing performances (of the youth team) and of the greats. Firdose, thank you for keeping us in the picture. Although being a SriLankan I truly enjoyed the read. Philip Gnana, Surrey.

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