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Back You are here: Home Sports Cricket Gauteng Cricket: Cricket at St.Alban's Part Two
Monday, 18 February 2013 07:34

Cricket: Cricket at St.Alban's Part Two

In 1985 St Alban’s undertook an overseas tour (to England) for the first time. It was both historic and courageous, given the obstacles that had to be overcome (these were the isolation years imposed on all SA sport during the Apartheid.) No equipment could be taken – to not attract attention from the anti-apartheid protesters at the airport - it all had to be bought over there.

(For Cricket at St.Alban's Part One)

chLater tours: 1995 UK, 1998 England and Wales, 2002; 2006 Singapore and Australia; 2009 UK; 2012 Sri Lanka) The reception in 1995 was in marked contrast. As Gerry van Wyk put it : “SA was flavour of the month and we as ambassadors basked in a warm reception.” The most different tour was to Sri Lanka in 2012.

 

Early Days at St Alban’s

The early days were not easy. As could be expected in a tiny (37 boys, all told) school with a bare minimum of facilities (2 concrete nets) with use of a Cowshed (now the Chapel) as an indoor net when it rained, and every fixture away, the “1st” Cricket Xi did not win a game in their first season. Their joy at managing to draw the last game of the season (exultant cries of “We didn’t lose!”) was perhaps understandable.

However, the turn-around came soon. Grant Nupen (later headmaster, and after that headmaster of Bishop’s) scored the College’s first century, and was the College’s first provincial selection. The first win against another school’s 1st XI was recorded in 1965.  

By 1969, the TC Mitchell Oval was adorned with a scoreboard, sight screens and a picket fence. A young Patrick Hamilton had taken over as coach in 1968, and Cricket was on the up! With typical Patrick enthusiasm, competitive spirit, and energy, he galvanised the young school’s cricketers into breaking shackles to achieve new heights. The first victory against PBHS was recorded in 1969 (by 7 wickets), while matches against St John’s and KES, and St Stithian’s were even, with St Alban’s winning in the strong years.

From then on St Alban’s has been well represented at Schools’ provincial level.

In 1975, in Cape Town, at the SA Nuffield week, St Alban’s history was made: Eugene Muntingh and Michael Collins were selected for SA Schools’. Patrick Hamilton records “As can be imagined, with the Headmaster, Anton Murray, and a full contingent of parental support, great was the celebration that night. Muntingh and Collins are also WHPS’ first SA Schools’ Caps - since the incomparable Eddie Barlow (who high schooled at PBHS). Incidentally, Eddie Barlow played for Western Province against the SA Schools’ side which included the 2 St Alban’s boys.”

Amid huge pride, in 1976 Michael Collins was again selected, and in 1977, David Welsh became St Alban’s 4th SA Schools’ Cap.

Since then a number of College cricketers have been selected for SA Schools, including Gerald Dros; Deon Kruis; Josh Richards (Captain) (2009); and David Bunn (2010).

 

St Alban’s as a source of Cricket Commentators:

Gerald De Kock (TV and Radio); Deon Kruis (Afrikaans commentary on TV and Radio); Gerald Dros; Alfie Phokobye (Radio); (Gerry van Wyk also received an invite to do a Radio 2000 commentary. (He said it was the best fun he’d had in years …)

The Most Successful Cricketer?

Great names spring to mind: The early SA Schools’ players, Muntingh, Collins and Welsh, and the era of Dros, Martin, van Zyl, Kruis, as well as 10 years later, Mokonyama, all went on to play provincial cricket. More recently, players like Chad van Zyl and Stephen Bendall, Chico Ponella, Ryan Cartwright, Josh Richards, and David Bunn and many others have really raised the bar against the top schools in South Africa and on overseas tours. Unfortunately, school records do not keep track of wicket-keeping or fielding prowess. Josh Richards was outstanding behind the stumps and went on to captain the SA Schools’ side.

David Bunn is the top Cricketer of the last 50 years. In 107 1st team games, he scored 4985 runs, 13 centuries and 26 half-centuries. (In his Form 2 year he scored 99 against Affies, just missing what would have been his first ton, but went on to take 7 for 54 to bowl Affies out!) He averaged above 50 throughout his school career, also taking over 100 wickets at an average of 3.22 runs/over, and 19.69 runs/wicket. He was selected for SA Schools’ and SA Schools’ U19. In addition he has been one of the greatest ambassadors for St Alban’s Cricket.

 

2 Stalwarts of St Alban’s Cricket Gerryvan Wyk and Bob Caple

Gerry van Wyk

In 1984 Gerry was appointed to St Alban’s staff. His cricketing credentials were impeccable: he had matriculated at St Andrew’s (again, the connection with Anton Murray), and was selected for SA Schools’, in 1963, in a year bristling with the talent (the Pollock, Proctor era) that was to herald the golden years of South African Cricket before isolation in which England and Australia were to be soundly beaten. He toured England with the SA Schools’ side – when he returned to England on the 1985 and 1995 St Alban’s tours the boys were amazed to find an SA School’s photograph with Gerry in it hanging in the Wellington College change room – the master-in-charge of cricket at Wellington had played against Gerry. In 1964 he was a tutor (stooge) at St Alban’s.

Gerry had been master-in-charge of Cricket at Bishop’s for over ten years. His deep understanding of the game, his coaching expertise, and his impressive organisational and delegation skills ensured that Cricket at St Alban’s was in good hands for the next 11 years. Gerry’s cricket knowledge is legendary – he could recount facts and discuss characters with the authority of one who had studied the game profoundly and read widely. He was very well known in cricketing circles country-wide and he served on numerous cricket administration committees.

The Private Schools’ Cricket Festival

A major contribution Gerry brought to the College, using the cricketing personnel network he had built up over the years involving all the top cricketing schools, was to institute the hugely successful and popular Private Schools’ Festival at St Alban’s. The selected long-weekend - during the 1st Term Exeat – was ideal for private schools, and St Alban’s, with its plentiful boarding space and 4 top cricket pitches, as well as easy access to fields around Pretoria, was the ideal venue. For the first time we were able to measure our cricketing prowess against the very best Private Schools’ teams from all over South Africa.

The True Spirit of Cricket

A vital and enduring feature was that the games were always played in a festival spirit, without the desperate need not to lose reducing matches to tame draws. In this tradition of true sportsmanship between like-minded cricket enthusiasts, there is no doubt that over the years, the love of Cricket was the winner. Further, the interaction enjoyed by staff and players in the very communal, friendly festival atmosphere created important and often life-long networks and friendships about which sport thrives. Year after year (Private School Cricket Festival has been played every year except one) the after-match get-togethers with genuine appreciation of talent from whichever school as well as much gentle ribbing and good-humoured fun between umpires, managers and coaches permeated down to the boys. It became a prestigious event with invitations much sort after.

Gerry worked successfully with the Cricket Professional, Bob Caple, who became a legend over the next decade and a half. In 1996 he resigned, and sadly, that was the first year in which the Private Schools’ Cricket Festival (what would have been his last) could not be held. Heavy downpours caused the spruit to overflow its banks so that all of Murray field as well as the Oval were under water to a depth of over a meter, depositing silt and rendering them unplayable for the first term.

   

The Pro – Bob Caple

Bob Caple was appointed for the South African cricket season at St Alban’s from 1984. He was Cricket coach at Bedford School in the UK summer and divided the year between the 2 schools. Bob was hard-bitten. He had been a professional English County player in the days when the division between the amateurs (the “gentlemen”) and the working cricket professionals earning their living from the game was marked, and he hated snobbery of any sort. He had had to make his own way in life, not only by playing week in and week out in top County Cricket, but also by working as a groundsman (at Lord’s), and as a coach, in all weathers.

Bob was very down-to-earth. For many years he had been a top spin bowler for          , and a dogged batsman, never giving his wicket away. He demanded a lot of the boys, having little room for sentiment, fear or softness. His oft-repeated mantra: “This game gives you nothing! You have to earn everything you get, and never forget that!” hid his deep love of Cricket. He believed in never missing practice: he believed in the dogged determination the long hours of hard work in the African sun built up in the boys. While he admired talent, and freely coached any boy willing to work, he would not tolerate prima donnas who would not work at their gift.   As a result, St Alban’s Cricket thrived. A much tougher mental attitude was established. The sides he coached were very competitive, and indeed, very successful, even against much bigger, older schools.

It is tempting to use the adjective, “dour” to describe Bob’s temperament. But this is not so: he enjoyed the boys, especially the tough “characters”, and he joked easily with them, provoking them and needling them to never feel sorry for themselves. He loved the South African climate, and his often ironic sense of humour showed itself in many ways.  

Players who made their name in Provincial cricket after school, like Nico Martin, Dan van Zyl, Gerald Dros, Deon Kruis and James Mokonyama remember his contribution with fondness and gratitude. Bob retired in March, 2000, and at a moving ceremony, the Oval Scoreboard was named after him.

In the decade 1985 – 1995, the dearth of cricket coaching in the Prep schools was marked. Only 6 primary school provincial players arrived at St Alban’s: however, in the same decade St Alban’s gained 25 Northern Transvaal Nuffield caps, and 2 SA Schools’ Caps (Gerald Dros and Deon Kruis) – a real tribute to the coaching at St Alban’s.

 

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