Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ONE of the last legacies to remain from Zimbabwe’s hosting of the International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup Qualifier is the mentorship local youngsters got from the 10 teams participating in the tournament.
Primary school children from Bulawayo as well as Harare got coaching from the teams as part of the Cricket For Good programme, which is a partnership between ICC and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
Cricket For Good was created as the ICC’s global community outreach programme aimed at leveraging the enormous power and reach of cricket to positively impact the lives of children and families worldwide.
A five-year Corporate Social Responsibility partnership was entered into between ICC and Unicef in October 2015.
The joint venture is being used as the ICC’s platform to advocate for children in India and other countries where cricket is a popular sport.
At a global level, Cricket For Good in partnership with Unicef is joining forces in specific areas of nutrition and child development, water and sanitation hygiene, quality education, empowering adolescents, child protection and child health, all aimed at improving children’s lives.
With Zimbabwe hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, school kids from mostly underprivileged communities attended coaching sessions conducted by the participating teams from 3 to 9 March.
In Bulawayo, the youngsters were identified from the five districts in the metropolitan province, Bulawayo Central, Khami, Imbizo, Reigate and Mzilikazi. For each of the five sessions, 40 kids, 20 boys as well as the same number of girls were in attendance.
In Bulawayo, the coaching sessions took place at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo Athletic Club and the Old Mutual Heath Streak Academy.
Last Wednesday, aspiring cricketers from Malindela, Mazwi, Godlwayo and Dumezweni got mentorship from Scotland at Queens Sports Club.
The same youngsters then attended the match between Scotland and Nepal the next day at the same venue which the Scots won by four wickets.
The programme concluded at Bulawayo Athletic Club last with Nepal imparting their knowledge to children from Reigate while Afghanistan took care of the group from Bulawayo Central.
Nicholas Singo, the Zimbabwe Cricket national schools manager said the turnout in Bulawayo was impressive with 40 children in attendance at every session.
“The attendance has been excellent, we had an average of 40 kids, attending our sessions. These were taken from different schools in a particular district. We made sure that the gender is fully balanced with 20 girls and 20 boys,’’ Singo said.
According to Singo, the schools were really supportive in that they provided the youngsters with transport to and from the sessions. Five centres were identified in each district where the equipment, made up of rubber balls, stumps and bats will be made available for the benefit of surrounding schools.
Milton Junior, Josiah Chinamano, Magwegwe, Mgiqika and Malindela were the schools identified to act as centres in each district.
“The amazing thing is that the schools have been supportive so they have been able to bring their kids to the grounds at their own cost. When they arrive we give them a playing kit and then after the session we then donate the kit to a centre which would have been chosen,’’ Singo said.
On what is the end goal of the initiative, Singo indicated that the aim was to bring delight to the youngsters with the hope of increasing participation in the sport which can inspire the aspiring cricketers to one day play for their country.
“The most important thing about the whole programme is enjoyment, from enjoyment we expect to increase participation and from participation we expect some of the players to grow up and become professional players. The programme’s main focus is on enjoyment and promoting gender equality,’’ he said.
So one day, when the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier is long done and dusted, a beneficiary of Cricket For Good might make their international cricket debut for Zimbabwe and go on to do extremely well on the international scene. —@Mdawini_29