Coaches from the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy assist in a Mauritian cricket development initiative.
Although cricket is a sport not often associated with the island of Mauritius, this hasn’t deterred a group of local enthusiasts from sharing the uplifting game with local youngsters.
In September this year, Mauritian-based Northfields Cricket Club, in collaboration with the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy (GKCA), launched two cricket development programmes that will empower a number of local children with life-changing cricket skills.
Northfields Cricket Club, which was formed in 2013, comprises a passionate group of cricket enthusiasts who are constantly seeking to uplift the surrounding communities.
‘The members have a desire to spread the game by introducing it to the local communities who have, as yet, not been exposed to cricket,’ explained Rod Phillips, Northfields Cricket Club president. ‘It was decided that a Junior Cricket Development, as well as an Introduction to Cricket programme, would be established. We then approached well-known local educationist, Ida Coombes, to identify a school that would be interested in introducing cricket to its pupils.’
Coombes immediately put the club in contact with Paula Atchia, general manager and driving force behind the local school, College Pere Laval. She is also the founding principal of Northfields International School which has ties to Northfields Cricket Club.
‘Our school is based in a particularly disadvantaged region of the island,’ explained Atchia. ‘About 60% of our pupils come from families who survive off social benefits and 65% are from single-headed households. Because all our intake is from the lowest achievers in the primary school exam, this gives us a chance to really educate the youngsters rather than mere exam coaching and we feel that the introduction of cricket will widen the scope of our pupils’ knowledge base.’
She said that, on being approached by Coombes about the proposed cricket development programmes, the school did not hesitate to make a decision.
‘On learning about the vision put forward by Northfields Cricket Club we immediately snapped up the opportunity to expose our pupils to the game that offers so many life lessons,’ she said. ‘Although it’s still early days, the initiative has been enthusiastically embraced by our teachers and pupils who are so eager to learn more.’
With the recipients established, Northfields Cricket Club turned to the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy for assistance in the day-to-day running of the programme.
Always looking to develop the sport across international boundaries, Gary Kirsten and his team responded immediately.
‘The GKCA is a global cricket business and we like to see the game grow,’ said Kirsten. ‘Our coaching teams continue to do work throughout South Africa, the Middle East, United Kingdom, Europe and India. Seeing a growing interest in the game of cricket is always very encouraging and we look forward to these coaching programmes aiding the development of the game, especially in Mauritius.’
Commenting on the decision to approach the Academy, Phillips said: ‘The Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy appealed to us because of the significant credibility that comes with the brand. We knew that Gary and his team would identify with the vision of introducing cricket to a wider audience and the manner in which they have embraced the project is testament to this. It is so rewarding to see the joy on the faces of the youngsters as they become more familiar with the game of cricket and its nuances.’
The Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy has sent over two highly-qualified coaches, Kholi Matekinca and Jarryd Phillips, who are facilitating the three-month long programmes. They have already started working with the 220 youngsters, aged 6 to 14, and are seeing amazing results.
‘It’s really been such a privilege to influence the lives of these children who haven’t before had a chance to play the game we love so much,” said coach, Jarryd Phillips. “We have already realised the potential at our disposal and are really looking forward to working with this to the best of our ability.’
Phillips said that, so far, the only challenge has been the language barrier as the children speak Mauritian Creole and very little English, however, with assistance from teachers and through the universal language of sportsmanship, the children are quickly learning the basic skills.
The Introduction to Cricket programme runs at College Pere Laval in the mornings while the Junior Cricket Development programme takes place in the afternoons. Locals who are interested in becoming cricket coaches will also benefit from the Coaching for Coaches course.
In addition, there will be a three-week Cricket Camp in November for those showing talent in the development programmes. This will be sponsored by KFC, an organisation that has played a significant role in cricket development within South Africa.
Commenting on the support, Rod Phillips said: ‘In the same enthusiastic manner in which the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy and College Pere Laval responded to our appeals so did KFC. KFC and cricket development are synonymous in South Africa and it most encouraging to have their support of our Cricket Camps.’