Cricket has been an intrinsic part of South Africa’s identity since the early 1800s, when the sport first came to the country. Two centuries later, the sport is just as strong, and South Africa’s relationship to the sport has evolved into a global perspective.

T20 Competition Brings Greater Exposure

According to new reports, it appears that the upcoming 2016 Cricket South Africa T20 competition is shaping up to be a more professional affair than last year’s pilot trial. The tournament is intended to bring exposure to smaller cricket grounds across the country, and to compensate for changing cricket rules that reduced the number of first-class matches from 13 to 10. In addition to expanding the competition from already existing T20 competitions to semi-pro sides, the event also features three more well known African teams: Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

At its core, the purpose of the T20 competition is to flesh out the unified identity of South African Cricket. This attempt at standardization and inclusion comes as a direct response to the fact that traditionally, SA Cricket teams have formed around regional locations and provinces, which has created a fractured community of athletes. Organizers of T20 hope that this event will not only bring African cricket players together, but also foster discussion about their shared identity.

Greater exposure through televised matches won’t hurt new players, either. Corrie van Zyl, the CSA’s general manager, talks about the T20 as a great learning curve: “Having the young players exposed to the experience of the more experienced franchise players and even the national players is important. The format, where every game counts, and the added pressure of playing on TV makes the learning curve a lot better for players.”

Big Names Spotlight SA’s Contributions to the Sport

Some South African cricket players who have played professional cricket internationally, like Kevin Pietersen, are even considering going back to play for their home country now that cricket in South Africa is getting more attention than it ever has before. Pieterson has played on England’s national team as one of the best batsman in recent history. In 2018 he’ll be eligible to play in South Africa again.

Another rising South African cricket player made news of a sadder variety this week. Lukhanya Tsiki, collapsed and died of suspected heart failure during routine training rounds on April 16. Only 22 years old and apparently healthy, it’s a sad loss for the South African cricket community.

Looking Abroad for Inspiration

Taking inspiration from India’s skilled spin bowlers, Cricket South Africa will send a squad to India to learn the technique firsthand. Spin bowling is what it sounds like: spinners release the cricket ball with a spin that sends the ball in an unpredictable path to the batter, making it harder to hit.

The squad of South African cricket players will attend a weeklong spin bowling course in Mumbai. Learning from the masters will not only help SA’s spinners improve their technique, but also be more equipped to handle rival teams that are known for their spin bowling prowess.

With the upcoming T20 competition in September, we can expect to see a growing number of fans discovering South Africa’s rich cricket culture on a larger scale. It will be exciting to see how the players’ training in Mumbai improves their spin bowling game back on the home front.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Nic Redhead 

Click here to read my article on the history of cricket in South Africa.