Steady progress for budding cricketers

Imraan Philander, left, and Bonga Makaka say they are confident the hard work they put in will pay off in pursuit of their cricket dreams.

Newlands Cricket School duo, Imraan Philander and Bonga Makaka have green and gold pumping through their veins following selection the national under-19 team this year.

Philander, a seam bowler from Grassy Park, received his call-up a few weeks ago to join the national camp ahead of their tour to Pakistan later this year.

Imraan, 18, says a lot of hard work and sacrifice has been put in to get to this point and it is an honour and privilege for him to represent the country.

“Everyone was very supportive and excited for me because they all know how much this means to me. What made this even more special was that when I got the news I was around the people who have been with me through everything.”

Imraan says it has been a dream come true for him to represent the country.

“It’s obviously a great achievement to represent your province at any level, but to represent your country is truly special, it was always a dream of mine to represent my country at this level. This is basically like the mini Proteas side and a huge stepping stone in my cricket career.”

Imraan started playing mini cricket at the age of nine for Blue Bells Cricket Club and by the age of 10 he played his first hard ball game.

“I was never really into cricket but more into soccer, but one of my mom’s close friends was part of a mini cricket setup and asked me to join. That’s where it all began for me.

“My family has definitely played a huge role in my cricket career thus far. I’m lucky enough to have a strong support structure at home which always motivates me and keeps me going. I am grateful to have my mom and gran who watch the majority of my games and they have sacrificed a lot in order for me to pursue my dreams,” says Imraan.

Bonga, a batsman from Site B, in Khayelitsha, made the national team earlier this year and was a part of the team that toured India in February.

The 18-year-old says it is next level cricket so he was overwhelmed with excitement when he received the call-up earlier this year.

He says the cricket bug bit him while at Soyisile Primary School in Khayelitsha. He went on to learn the basics of the sport at Khayelitsha Cricket Club before he received a scholarship from Newlands Cricket School to attend Wynberg Boys’ High School.

Bonga says he impressed for Wynberg, making the provincial team at under-15. His scholarship was renewed in Grade 11 when he returned to Newlands Cricket School. He is now in Grade 12 and says he does not always look ahead to the future but continues to work hard.

“I think to stay focused, to believe in yourself and to listen to the coaches is very important. The coaches have been through it and they see the bigger picture. They are very important and should be given more credit.”

His mother, Yandiswa, says she is glad he has made such good progress, saying he was always nowhere to be found except on the cricket pitch.

She says her son started playing cricket when he was six and it has helped him stay out of trouble.

“It was even harder for him to play when he was in Grade 7 because he was always busy at school but he stuck with it until now,” she says.

Cricket SA talent scout and provincial academy youth manager Graham October says Imraan and Bonga must continue to take the opportunities that they get and never take them for granted.

“They must remember they must become role models because society is still unequal. Diligence, hard work and patience will follow the process to success,” he says.

October says the players selected for the Pakistan tour are old enough to feature in next year’s under-20 World Cup and this is an opportunity for them to showcase their talent.

October says Imraan is still at the beginning of his career and should continue to stay humble while remembering where he comes from.

“Imraan will still learn a couple of tricks along the way, he will be successful. He comes from a difficult background but the support from the provincial office and from a single parent helps him to do well. The future is bright for the young man. He is a gentleman all-rounder. I met him at under-15 level, but he has always been mature for his age.”

October says Bonga is a fighter and has the ability to become one of the best batsmen in the game.

He says he first met Bonga five years ago when he scored a century for Wynberg’s third team.

“I was a convener for the under-17 provincial side and I selected him. He has never looked back and has scored from day one. He has featured for the Cape Cobras cubs team on numerous occasions,” he says.

October says he has high hopes for Bonga, believing he will probably move beyond the academy space and into the semi-professional or professional side soon.

“During the last one-day season game against Boland at Newlands Stadium earlier this year, Bonga opened the batting and scored an unbeaten 65 runs,” he says.