The beautiful Kruger landscape is home to an amazing array of fauna, flora, and, on occasion, cricketers! The cricket oval near Skukuza is a hidden gem, carefully maintained in amidst the Kruger bushveld. The players? An assorted bunch of Scientists, Rangers, Field Guides and community members from Skukuza, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and the SANParks online forums, who plan to come out in the summer sun to play cricket and raise funds for SANParks!
Skukuza, Kgalagadi and the SANParks Forums have put together cricket teams to play against each other at Skukuza on the 24 of February. Accommodation has been booked and strategies are being discussed.
Says KNP spokesperson, Raymond Travers, the cricket field in the Skukuza Staff Village has hosted some interesting games over the years and annually hosts a Cricket Clinic for all the local schools.
"We get a number of the top cricketers to come and help with the clinic in the morning - Ntini, Crooks, Nel, de Villiers etc have regularly been visitors- and then all the names are thrown into a hat together with those from the Skukuza Cricket Club and team "A" and "B" are formed and play against each other later", he explains.
Travers recalls how four years ago Justin Kemp knocked a ball right over the boundary, over a line of houses and splash into the N'waswitshaka River. "Last year it was fun watching someone like Don English padding up to Andre Nel and actually knocking a couple of runs off him too", says Travers, "I think he was eventually caught behind".
Another highlight was when Derek Crooks got hold of the PA system and started giving match commentary. "While he was busy pulling AB's leg, a few warthogs ambled onto the field so Derek said: 'And now the replacement fielders go onto the field and take up the Silly Mid On position'. As you can see, the actual game isn't very serious, unless you facing Andre Nel or Makhaya Ntini", laughs Travers, "and we hope to host it this year again".
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the meantime put together a cricket team in 2006. “As far as anybody can remember there has never been an official cricket team in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park”, says Jan Kriel, head of Field Guiding in the park. “The local community challenged the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to get a team together and to play a friendly against them and we obliged”, he explains.
The game was played at Welkom Community Village just outside the park. “Playing in the dirt was rough”, he explains, “because it made the ball slow and also bowling was very difficult, but under circumstances we had to make the best of it, dust and all!”
The KTP team won the match by 5 wickets, “but what was important was the fact that the community and the park could get together and have some sport” says Kriel.
One thing led to another and Kgalagadi contacted Kruger, challenging them to a 'clash'
KNP's reply: "Bring. It. On".
As this discussion took place online, it wasn't long before the SANParks Forum Members were putting together a team, and the date for the match, the 24 of February 2007, was confirmed.
The SANParks online community has over has 8900 registered members, a number of whom have been involved in various events and activities revolving around SANParks, from 'forum meets' in the Netherlands to fundraising adventures in the KNP. “We thought, why let Kruger and Kgalagadi have all the fun?”, laughs DinkyBird, a forum moderator, “We decided to join in and in the process raise some money towards one of SANParks projects, the Nossob webcam ” adds DinkyBird.
Money will be raised by way of donations via the SANParks website. So far, people have pledged hundreds of rands towards the purchase of the camera to see the ‘musketeer’ forum team come out to play in mini-skirts, there’s another R100.00 pledged if the Forum team beats the KNP guys, and R50.00 for every catch an “angel” (woman player) takes to dismiss a batswoman in the women’s match, “it’s all a lot of fun”, adds DinkyBird, “and all the pledges add up”. The fundraising target is R20 000.00.
The day’s matches will run as follows: Forum Men’s team vs. the KTP team in the morning, with the winner then playing the Skukuza team in the afternoon. In between, there will be a fun match where a women’s forum team will play a Skukuza women’s team.
KNP will host the match, and the event is set to become SANParks largest gathering of forum members, some of whom are travelling from as far as Holland to attend. "Over a hundred people in total will be involved in this great initiative", says Travers, "we're looking forward to a fabulous day".
A number of the Kgalagadi players are community members who have never had the opportunity to travel outside of their local area, "so this trip of 7000 kilometers is a once in a lifetime opportunity", says Kriel. "Thank-you to Avis, who have generously sponsored the vehicles, Cricket South Africa, who have supplied us with equipment, and Anton van Schalkwyk who, in his personal capacity, has sponsored the petrol money for the Kgalagadi team".
There will be floating trophy, kindly donated by forum member Muhammed, live online commentators, a webcam broadcasting the game for those who can't attend the match in person, and an evening event where all involved in the match can relax after a day in the sun and soak up some Kruger magic.
Watch this space for details on how to follow the game online, and get involved is what surely will go down in history as an epic day of cricket@skukuza.
For more information, please contact Dianne Tipping-Woods