Graham October and scouts all around the country are playing an intricate role in the development of cricket in South Africa, this is the untold story of a cricket scout, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
Scouting plays an integral role in the growth of South African cricket. Not only is it crucial to finding the next big star, but it is vital to providing opportunities to aid the personal growth of individuals. October is the epiphany of that. Not only does he aim to find players with the qualities required to become great players but he aims to build balanced individuals who can find a place for themselves in this dog-eat-dog world.
The touching tales of previously disadvantaged players who manage to claw their way out of an environment that is meant to bog them down has become a normality for a man of October’s experience. But this has never weakened his passion and drive to provide the necessary support system to give these players as the legendary rapper Eminem said, ‘one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything they ever wanted.’
But what is the role of a scout? Is there a specific blueprint or flat plan for this specialised job?
SACricketmag.com caught up with the Cricket South Africa scout and Western Province academy manager to find out the intricacies of the role of a scout in South African cricket.
‘The scout is not a complex issue. People perceive a scout the way they want to understand it. The way I see it – my main focus is to support the national coach. I work in the Western Cape region which comprises of Western Province, Boland and South Western District,’ said October. ‘Where youth is concerned I must be on top of my game. I should know players in the region and players earmarked by CSA. The national coach would want some information and I must relay this to him.
‘There’s no criteria or formulae. It’s like golf – it’s feel and touch – you should have experience in the game. My situation, I never played in the national team, but I have been in the game since 1976 and I have always been in this game. I’ve always been involved in the game. I educate myself by talking to former international players all around the country to see what they see in a young player.
‘On a good Saturday, I clock 200km easily. I will map out a route for myself. One week I will just focus on the southern suburbs. I list the different names I am interested to watch them play. Then one week I will just focus on townships. Then the northern suburbs, Paarl etc. Where there is youth cricket you will find me.’
October continues to explain how Cricket South Africa invest in the scouting system.
‘People read in the papers about CSA and the shenanigans. The Global T20 that was aborted – the one struggling to get off the ground – and people build a perception about CSA,’ October added. ‘What they don’t know is the amount of money, time and programmes that CSA has put in place for these boys. All it is, is to address the imbalance of the past.
‘CSA through their programmes have been giving players opportunities. More players from the township areas are starting to come through the system. We as scouts should invest ourselves in those areas. For too long we have neglected those areas. Yes, I understand that there was an imbalance. CSA in its foresight is trying to address that.
‘My role as a scout is to help CSA address this. The stigma going around that these boys are all quota players and that they are there because of transformation and are not good enough; those stigmas should be put to bed. The fact of the matter is simple – transformation will be there and should be there.
‘It should be used as an imperative, period. The whole purpose is to address the inequalities in our system. If it was not for transformation we would have never seen so many up and coming players of colour breaking through. It will take a bit of time still, but from me working within the system I can tell you we on the right path.’
October brought up a touching statement that personified cricket and highlighted the intangible qualities that he searches for.
‘Coaches tend to make these mistakes – because they coaching at a high level, they see a boy and compare him to the level they used to seeing. A young boy is not mature yet and through the game of cricket, he will learn more about himself.
‘Cricket asks you the questions life will ask you. So as a player loses his wicket he starts to discover himself. As he bowls bad balls he discovers himself. That is the journey cricket takes you on. There are certain things that a coach cannot teach. A coach can teach you skill, a coach can teach you flair, but a coach can not teach you to have a good heart and the right attitude,’ said October.