‘Let’s play, gents’

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Future cricket stars kick off Khaya Majola Week today

Battling it out in Bloem

WAY back in 1940, philanthropist Lord Nuffield provided funding to start an annual week-long cricket tournament which would be held in different centres throughout South Africa.

Thus the Nuffield Week was born and the first event was held in Cape Town.

Robin Peterson will act as the face of the Coca-Cola Hero of the Day

About 76 years later, the ethos of the tournament is still prevalent. It was agreed that at the end of each week the best 11 plus a 12th man would be selected to play a one-day match against the host provincial team.

For many years this was the highest cricket ambition a schoolboy could aspire to and over the years some amazing talent was unearthed, with many of the boys going on to represent South Africa in test matches and on official overseas tours.

Selected in 1940, and the following two years, captaining the SA Schools side in 1942, Natal allrounder John Watkins is today the oldest Test cricketer in the world at 93 years of age.

He was capped against Australia in 1949-50 and finished his Test career against England in 1956-57.

Originally the Week was for white cricketers only, but with cricket making strides towards change as the last century wound down, players of colour were rightfully included and many made their mark as talented players.

Some famous names who advanced as “Nuffield boys” are Jack McGlew, the late Trevor Goddard, Colin Bland, Graeme and Peter Pollock, Lee Irvine, Hansie Cronje, Peter Kirsten, Jonty Rhodes, Daryll Cullinan, Allan Donald, Neil McKenzie, Barry Richards, Mike Procter and Kepler Wessels to name a few, while England Test players Tony and Ian Greig, Allan Lamb, Chris and Robin Smith and Jonathan Trott, also received their colours before moving to other countries to advance their careers.

Ironically, two of South Africa’s finest bowlers, Hugh Tayfield – the first SA bowler to capture 100 Test wickets – and Peter Heine, a fiery fast bowler of the 1950s, failed to make the Nuffield XI.

Herschelle Gibbs, Makhaya Ntini, Lance Klusener, Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla; Dale Steyn; Shaun Pollock; Mark Boucher and even former England captain, Kevin Pietersen, continued this proud legacy.

In more recent times, Proteas batsman, Rilee Rossouw, was the star of 2006, smashing 182 in a 50 over game – a standing record. Quinton de Kock was the player of the tournament in 2011 after scoring two hundreds and a 50 over the week. Both players were subsequently called up to the Coca-Cola® SA U19s, setting them on the path to Protea greatness.

These days the tournament continues under the name of Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week and with South Africa now playing test matches virtually continuously throughout the year, the hunt for talent continues. The event is named after Majola, a talented left-arm spinner and left-handed batsman from the Eastern Cape who joined the United Cricket Board (now Cricket SA) in the 1990s but sadly died from cancer at the early age of 47 in 2000.

There’s an extra shine added to the Week, which is set to take place in Bloemfontein from today until next Wednesday (December 21), with the Coca-Cola Hero of the Day.

GOING PLACES : The Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week kicks off in Bloemfontein today with cricket bosses and the public hoping it will unearth more test talent. Fast bowler Sithembile Langa has already represented the Border senior men’s team at semi-pro level and he would also love to make the leap up to franchise level and then to Test level

Former Proteas allrounder Robin Peterson will act as the face of the Coca-Cola Hero of the Day. He is due to lead a panel of experts tasked with selecting the coveted Hero of the Day award winners on each day of the tournament.

The award was launched in 2014 and has already seen some of its recipients go on to achieve success including Rivaldo Moonsamy, Lesego Senokwane, Isma-eel Gafieldien, Sohail Mahmoud and Border fast bowler, Sithembile Langa, who are all now playing semi-pro and franchise cricket and carving a career for themselves in the game.

“Having played in the Khaya Majola Week myself I can testify that this tournament is a significant stepping-stone in the career of a young cricketer,” said Peterson. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to play a part in the country’s premier youth cricket tournament and to lead the Hero of the Day judging panel which has already uncovered multiple young heroes.”

The Hero of the Day is not necessarily your typical Man of the Match award. He could well be the wicketkeeper who made an amazing diving catch, or even a tail-ender who smashed a reverse sweep for six to win the match or perhaps a player showing extreme sportsmanship and embodying the spirit of the gentleman’s game

It is moments such as these that Peterson and his team, made up of some of the foremost cricket experts in South Africa, including key members of the national sporting and school sports media, will be looking out for and rewarding.

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