On a Saturday morning in late September 2017, I arrived with a fleet of Audi Q5’s at the Kagiso Sports complex in Johannesburg. The convoy was carrying Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Cricket South Africa (CSA) coaches and the revolutionary Audi Bowling Lab technology – arguably the most powerful development scouting team ever assembled in South African cricket. The visit was the first as part of a nationwide tour, named: Audi Q5 Fast Track – an initiative which would be one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences of my coaching career.
Over 200 smiling faces greeted me that morning. All of them teens who were eager to prove their skill and have the opportunity to test out the state-of-the-art technology to identify bowling talent in disadvantaged areas – enabled by Audi.
Cricket development, particularly in fast bowling, is not only my job but it is my passion. After having my national career cut short because of injury, I have made it my life’s mission to work with CSA to ensure young cricketers from similar backgrounds as mine are given the coaching and guidance they need, so that they can have the best shot at achieving their dreams. I firmly believe that my involvement in the Audi Q5 Fast Track has been a milestone in my mission and that it is one of the best development initiatives executed in South Africa.
The technology provided by Audi as part of the bowling lab can instantly analyse a bowler’s action, speed, line and length, giving a coach the insights he needs to spot bowlers with potential as quickly and accurately as possible. It is undoubtedly the future of coaching. With the help of Audi’s latest SUV model, the new Q5, we were able to transport this technology to areas where kids would not have previously had the opportunity to showcase their skills. This was undoubtedly a watershed moment for talent identification.
Over the course of the Audi Q5 Fast Track I was privileged enough to visit similar locations in Durban, Mthatha, Polokwane and Cape Town. What I found in each province never wavered – reams of talented, young, fast bowlers with the skill and drive to potentially forge careers for themselves out of cricket. I could never have imagined the extent of fast bowling talent lying in wait – ready to prove their abilities.
Across South Africa we were exposed to the skills of Abigail Mantjane, a young lady whose line and length consistency was outstanding; Gerhardus Fourie who, at just 15 years old, is bowling at speeds consistently reaching the 130km/h mark; Sibabalwe Takatshana, an immensely talented young lady from Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape and Kovilan Pillay whose passion for cricket matched his great talent.
These individuals will now be put in front of CSA’s development structures. The next step for them is not only hard work but smart work. Ensuring that they aren’t bowling too much or pushing themselves too hard, that they understand the importance of nutrition in their development and that they find a correct balance between training and school work, will be imperative to their future success. The best of these individuals will now have access to all of this guidance – an opportunity that they may not have dreamed of receiving a month ago.
The results of this initiative don’t only include opportunities for talented individuals but will also foster a broader talent pool for CSA to work with. South Africa has a legacy of world class, fast bowlers. The likes of Ntini, Pollock, Donald, Steyn, Rabada and Philander have been recent custodians of this legacy. There is now hope that one of the youngsters we encountered over the past month will continue to carry out this great tradition.
As I think back to that morning in Kagiso, witnessing 200 children flock towards Kagiso Rabada as if he were the Pied Piper of Krugersdorp (the ability of our current heroes to inspire and uplift is not to be underestimated). I couldn’t have imagined the journey we were about to embark on. Audi has helped us illustrate the depth of bowling talent that exists across our country – something which makes me very hopeful for the future of South African cricket.
Mfuneko Ngam, former Proteas Bowler