RMB Solutionist Thinking is a podcast series hosted by Bruce Whitfield which focusses on great South African minds thinking differently and going against the norm. In this episode in the second series, Whitfield interviews former South African cricketer, Gary Kirsten.
In his heyday – former South African cricketer, Gary Kirsten played 101 test matches, held the record for the highest individual score by a South African in a one day international, 188 Not-Outs against the UAE in the 1996 World Cup and, briefly served as Vice-Captain of the Proteus.
He's been retired almost as long as he was playing cricket. But, the sport remains his one true love and that love has taken him into the dimly-lit streets of Khayelitsha to drive the dire need for black representation in the sport.
It scares me a little bit when I go into our township areas and one of our national sports is not been represented at all in one of the biggest townships in Cape Town.— Gary Kirsten, founder – Gary Kirsten Foundation
This was the motivation behind the Gary Kirsten Foundation and, particularly in schools. Instead of venturing into townships to scout for talent, the foundation sought to afford township children a chance to sample the game, and to hone their skills safe, accessible and professional environment – and ultimately, developing black cricket in a country where many opportunities are lost to the black child.
I think there's a lot of values that come out of doing something with a group of people and striving to be better.— Gary Kirsten, founder – Gary Kirsten Foundation
Through his work with the Gary Kirsten foundation, Kirsten realised that there was a desperate need for high quality cricket facilities within township schools.
This need included basic facilities such as flat playing surfaces, which is something that most children outside of the township were privileged enough to have access to – but, which excluded township schools from competing against mainstream schools in South Africa.
Turning its attention to the lack of infrastructure, the Gary Kirsten Foundation started building much-needed facilities, along with training nets, artificial pitches and, by providing kits.
Cricket is slightly more formal in South Africa. So, for me to introduce it into the schools and you create a more formal environment, I don't see a problem with that.— Gary Kirsten, founder – Gary Kirsten Foundation
Kirsten's lifelong dream is to build a non-fee paying sporting School of Excellence in the townships. But, it's going to take a lot of money – a total of around R6 million, to be exact.
If you create one School of Excellence in a region, you can serve a whole lot of other schools and, that's what excites me…— Gary Kirsten, founder – Gary Kirsten Foundation