Cricket is alive and thriving in eSwatiniThomas Kwenaite
By Andile and Mandla Dladla
The Kingdom of Eswatini prides itself in their adherence to developing and nurturing kids from an early age so they develop to become some of the country’s best sports personalities.
So it is no surprise that Eswatini Cricket Association (ECA) Operations Manager Mandla Dlamini is working hard to try and make sure that the country becomes a cricketing hub for all to play and enjoy the game.
“The ECA is the sole governing body for cricket in the Kingdom,” said Dlamini. “We are recognized by the Eswatini Sports and Recreation Council, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and we are also an affiliate member of the Africa Cricket Association (ACA).
“Our job is to encourage, promote, advance and co-ordinate the game of cricket throughout the country. We promote the development of playing facilities because the game was never introduced in rural areas. We are trying to acquire portable pitches so it is accessible to everyone.”
Part of the requirements to develop the game is to have a clear competition partway in junior competitions for both boys and girls including the senior women and men.
“After running those successful competitions we then have to play in the sub-regional qualifiers and we make sure that we select the best players for the national teams by facilitating high performance trainings to send the best possible teams.
“One of our greatest challenge is lack of sponsors in the country. The only sponsor that we have received was from the High Commission of India in Mbabane for the senior men’s T20 Domestic league and even though it did not cover the whole expenses of the tournament, it nonetheless went a long way in alleviating the challenges.
“There is no government support but we do get half funding when we play the sub-regional qualifiers. It then becomes difficult to organize training, meals and transportation which amounts to a lot when preparing the national teams.
“We also have a lot of sporting codes in the Kingdom like soccer which is first priority for funding and cricket gets a bit difficult to introduce in schools because there’s still that stigma that it is a sport for the rich.”
The issue of facilities is also a challenge. The cricket fields that exist are around town in places like Mhlume and Manzini but in the rural areas where they are recruiting most players, there are simply no facilities to write home about.
When it comes to international competitions they were able to meet the criteria for the men’s category. They will be taking part in the sub-regional qualifiers in November with the host nation not announced as yet but in 2021 they qualified and the tournament took place in Rwanda.
“We are optimistic about the eight nations tournament scheduled for Botswana this year following its cancellation during the last two years due to covid-19 and the our ladies national team would be participating. It will be sanctioned by the International Cricket Council.
The administrators in Mozambique are interested in bringing both their men and women national teams to have a bilateral series in Eswatini. They have proposed the series to be staged during July.
All this augurs well for Eswatini cricket following news for Mandla Dlamini has just been appointed into the Africa Cricket Association (ACA) to assist as development representative in Central and Southern Africa.
“We appeal to sponsors out there to assist us financially in order for the sport to grow because we need equipment, playing facilities and highly qualified coaches to produce the best players.”