The two cricket teams based at the University of Fort Hare will have the chance to pit their skills against Pakistan’s future stars at the Alice campus in the coming days.
A Pakistan development team is currently touring the country and will be taking on the UFH-Cricket South Africa (CSA) Academy in a 50-over fixture on Sunday and Fort Hare’s Forties in a Twenty20 on Monday morning.
Both matches will be played at the university’s Krish Mackerdhuj field.
The youngsters from the subcontinent are part of a programme initiated by Majeed Bashir Achmat of the Honorary Council of SA in Karachi.
Achmat, with the backing of the South African High Commission in Pakistan, formed the Nelson Mandela Talent Hunt to give underprivileged young people an equal opportunity to play cricket professionally.
The team, viewed as potential recruits for Pakistan’s national sides, were selected from trials held at Karachi’s Asghar Ali Shah Cricket Stadium.
Fort Hare cricket manager Gcobisa Kanuka explained that the opportunity to host them came through the joint venture between UFH, CSA and Border Cricket that also drives the academy.
“Hosting the Pakistan development side increases the university’s visibility and networking reach,” she said.
“It also provides a unique chance to build cross-cultural relationships. All of this could possibly lead to increased funding and academic opportunities.”
Despite the CSA-UFH and Forties teams not having played any practice matches, coaches Burton de Wett and Jongile Kilani will be keen to show early-season form against the Pakistanis.
Kanuka said De Wett would be looking to play aggressive but smart cricket in the expected sticky conditions, while Kilani and his team wanted to focus on getting the basics right as it would be their first match of the season.
She said the matches would be an excellent learning experience for the players.
The cricket academy has enjoyed notable successes over the years.
Most recently, leg-spinner Nqaba Peter signed a professional contract with the DP World Lions in Gauteng. He was also part of the SA Emerging side that did battle against Zimbabwe earlier this year.
Every player at the academy has represented his province at school level while some have also played for the Warriors U19 side at Cubs Week.
In addition, the Forties club team boast several members who have played for Border as juniors.
Preparation for the fixtures has not been the easiest as inclement weather and a drenched field have limited the teams’ ability to practice outdoors. They have, however, been making the most of the indoor facilities.
Rain over the past few days would likely see the pitch play slow, but Kanuka was confident that it would hold up for both matches.
“The teams will need to adapt to the conditions and make the best of the situation.”
She hoped that the games would spark interest among businesses and that it would lead to sponsorship opportunities that could sustain cricket in the region.
The 50-over match starts at 10am on Sunday and the Twenty20 at 1pm on Monday.