Bakers: SA cricket’s heartbeat

16 May 2008

On Thursday, Bakers Mini Cricket established a Guinness world record for the most children playing cricket at one time in a celebration to highlight the 25th anniversary of Bakers Mini Cricket, which is the longest developmental sport sponsorship in southern Africa.

Over 6 000 children between the ages of six and twelve, took part in the mega festival across eight venues.

The festivities started with opening ceremonies attended by a host of dignitaries, including local cricketers, before the children took to the pitches, to start playing Bakers Mini Cricket at precisely the same time across the eight selected venues. They included Johannesburg (Liberty Life Wanderers), Cape Town (Sahara Park Newlands), Paarl (Boland Park), Benoni (Willowmoore Park), Kimberley (De Beers Diamond Oval), KwaZulu-Natal (Sahara Stadium Kingsmead), Port Elizabeth (Sahara Oval St Georges) and Pretoria (Supersport Park).

A dignitary at each event signed off the official documentation to verify the world record claim.

‘Fitting climax’

Gerald Majola, Cricket South Africa’s CEO, said: “Setting this world record is a fitting climax to the 25th birthday celebrations of the Bakers Mini Cricket sponsorship.

“Once again, Bakers Mini Cricket has brought fun and joy to thousands of young South Africans, boys and girls. South African cricket owes a big debt of gratitude to Bakers biscuits for its most meaningful contribution to the growth of the game and the development of the nation’s youth.”

Standard Bank, on of South African cricket’s major sponsors, said: “Our warmest congratulations to Bakers for this incredible milestone in growing and developing the game of cricket amongst aspiring young South African children. We, at Standard Bank, share the Bakers’ vision of bringing cricket to all. Sustained and committed support from corporate South Africa can only help CSA realise their goals of nurturing and encouraging young talent to rise to the top.”

To continue in the spirit of the day, Standard Bank donated R10 000 towards the Bakers Mini Cricket programme, which will be allocated to the region that produces the winner of the Bakers’ “Administrator of the Year” award, to be announced at the Mutual & Federal SA Cricket awards in June.

‘A foundation’

“The Bakers Mini Cricket programme has been one of our most rewarding achievements,” said Managing Director, David Hood. “For the past 25 years Bakers biscuits has helped provide a foundation for grassroots cricket development in South Africa, giving all children a real sporting chance.”

Cricket South Africa Schools Cricket Manager, Niels Momberg explained the importance of the programme: “Bakers Mini Cricket has for 25 Years been the heartbeat of South African Cricket. From small beginnings in Alexandra and Soweto all those years ago, it has grown to an iconic brand, an irreplaceable friend, and ally to South African Cricket.

“Today, kids from all backgrounds give their first steps in the wonderful world of cricket using the vehicle of Bakers Mini Cricket, just as Makhaya Ntini and Mark Boucher started out at the same time all those years ago.

The children play Bakers Mini cricket with stars in their eyes and with dreams of emulating their heroes every step of the way. Currently the Proteas are enjoying a wonderful run of success with many of the stars having graduated from the programme.

Coaches Academy

“Both Proteas’ coaches, Mickey Arthur and Vincent Barnes, were educated through the world renowned Bakers Coaches Academy. This proves that the Bakers biscuits sponsorship is indeed the all important heartbeat of South African Cricket.”

Since its inception over two million children have passed through the Bakers Mini Cricket programme, which currently includes over 100 000 children from more than 5 000 schools nationally.

Bakers Mini Cricket was the first organised soft ball cricket game in the world. It consists of fast, scaled-down games with eight children per team, which can be played on any surface with a soft ball.

All players get a chance to bat, bowl, field and keep wicket within a safe and entertaining environment. For many children it is their first exposure to the game.

The beginning

The programme was developed in the 1980s by Dr Ali Bacher. He found a willing sponsor in Bakers, who saw the programme as an opportunity to invest in the adults of tomorrow.

The sponsorship was launched as a regional experiment in Gauteng and within four years became national. Bacher also included a township programme, which took Bakers Mini Cricket into the most impoverished areas of South Africa.

Many of South Africa’s best known cricket stars have played Bakers mini cricket including Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Mfuneko Ngam, and JP Duminy. In addition, many of the players on the national women’s team came through the programme.

Source: Cricket South Africa