Four-course Family Reunion

There have been just 140 players capped by South Africa across all three formats since readmission and largest gathering of past and present players since 1991 is set to take place in Jo’burg this Monday evening.

So many lessons have had to be learned during the past quarter of a century, lessons about international cricket, about our own game and even about ourselves and our nation. It is hardly surprising that things have been missed and a few mistakes made along the way.

One of things which the United Cricket Board and Cricket South Africa forgot to do was cherish the family of international cricketers it was slowly building. The only precedent they had was over two decades old and nobody made provision for the importance of retaining knowledge and experience in the system.

Now, 25 years after returning to the global game, the number of former players actively – or even passively – involved in the game at either domestic or national team level is eye-wateringly small. But it gets worse. Not only are so few involved, but many feel rejected by the game and consequently dejected.

The current leadership group at CSA acknowledge this. President Chris Nenzani, chief executive Haroon Lorgat and the Board know that ex-players should have been made to feel ‘special’ when they were no longer required on the field, made to know that the dedication and devotion required to represent their country would be appreciated in perpetuity, not just when they were wearing the cap.

So, an invitation was sent some months ago to every surviving member of the 140 inviting them and their partners to a Gala Dinner in Sandton on the night before the Annual Awards. It was no easy task.

To say CSA’s data base needed refreshing would be to say the Proteas’ season has been mildly disappointing. Mike Rindel’s letter arrived at an address he lived in 12 years ago. Martin van Jaarsveld was tracked down to George when everyone still thought he lived in Canterbury. There were dozens of similar examples, but perseverance finally paid off and the result will be – at the last count – 99 Proteas, most with partners, enjoying the chance to reminisce about the good times.

For some, it is too little, too late. But the majority who were able have accepted the invitation which will be repeated at landmark years in future. It may be a symbolic gesture, but it’s a bloody good one.

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