ZIMBABWE’S cricket’s future is in safe hands, thanks to Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe’s association with Stragglers junior cricket festival, an annual week-long festival hailed as the best platform to develop grassroots talent in the country.
Having started more than 60 years ago by Spencer Parker, a local architect, Stragglers junior cricket development festival has grown in leaps and bounds.
Some 10 years ago, Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe saw the importance of Stragglers festival’s role in contributing towards nurturing cricket talent at a tender ageand made a decision to bankroll the week-long event.
Stanbic Bank is not only committed to making a real difference to financial services in Zimbabwe by providing banking services and products that enhance customer experience but seeks to play a pivotal role in nation building through well calculated Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
Given that cricket is among the major sporting disciplines in Zimbabwe, Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe saw the importance of promoting junior cricket development.
Zimbabwe batsman PJ Moor participated in the Stragglers tournament in early 2000.
“I was among players from the established schools. I went to St John’s Prep School but we had kids from several different schools in our team…Stragglers helped me in several ways to develop into the player I am today.
“Apart from learning to better my skills as a young player, particularly learning to play “matches” so to speak, I also learned to play and mingle with kids I didn’t know.
“This helped me learn valuable life skills when it comes to participating in a team sport as well as learning to make friends from other schools,” said Moor.
Zimbabwe opener Hamilton Masakadza was part of the High Glen development side team whose members were drawn from Highfields, Glen View and Glen Norah in the late 1990s
Masakadza participated in the festival when he was grade 6 and 7.
“As a cricketer I believe your development is largely dependant on the opposition you face. Stragglers provided very good and strong opposition from different parts of the country which was very challenging and helped us improve and develop faster.
“It also gave us an opportunity to play on grass wickets as well and helped us learn that additional skill as opposed to the artificial concrete wickets we were brought up on.
“Stragglers is an integral part in the development of every young cricketer,” says Masakadza.
Middle order batsman Craig Ervine is also a product of Stragglers.
“I felt at the time that it was a tournament where lots of people that have an influence on your future are watching. I feel the junior tournaments are very necessary to help nurture our young crop of players and help selectors pick out future talents that need to be looked after in building the future for Zimbabwe Cricket,” said Ervine.
Former captain Elton Chigumbura was part of the stragglers tournament in 1997 and 1998 and a member of the development side.
“It was a great foundation for my career and a new experience playing a tournament on grass wickets with different teams in one week and meeting different players from all parts of Zimbabwe and also to see which level I was compared to everyone else who played in the tournament.”
When Stragglers was initiated by Parker, the aim was to take cricket to the districts.
Shortly afterwards it was realised there was a real need for cricket for primary school boys during the holidays.
The Stragglers Cricket Festival was started.
Initially matches were held over five days all over Harare.
Later Bill Flower took over and he staged games using the major cricket grounds.
By 2000 Stragglers realised there was a need to consolidate the festival for better organisation and control.
St George’s College was approached and to their undying credit they agreed to centralise the festival at Hartmann House using their grounds and two of their junior fields.
A player who scores 25 runs or more and/or takes at least three wickets in the game receives a personal certificate.
The game is carefully controlled.
Batsmen must retire after having scored 30 runs and each player bowls two overs.
The aim is to give every player a chance.
If only 6 batsmen have batted one day, number seven and eight will open the batting the next day.
The colts, aged nine and 10, play in the morning and the seniors, aged 11 and 12, play after lunch.
Cricketers from Zambia, Botswana and Kenya have also taken part.
The Stanbic-sponsored certificates are now all over Central Africa.
During the just-ended Stragglers cricket festival a parent of 10-year-old Anesuishe Kagande, Forward, paid tribute to Stanbic Bank.
“We really appreciate the set-up of the Stragglers festival starting with the support by Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe especially in this tough economic environment and the inclusion of development sides from Masvingo, Shamva and Chitungwiza, among other areas.
“For years this festival has produced some of the best cricket players in the country,’ he said.
Helenic Cricket coach and founder of Glen Norah-based Give Hope Cricket Centre of Excellence, Moses Chitare, has a dream.
Chitare’s select side was part of the development team which took part at the Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe-sponsored Stragglers Junior cricket festival at the end of August.
“We can only give a big thank you to Stanbic Bank for enabling the young cricket enthusiasts to perfect their skills in an environment of fun,” he said.