Aviwe Mgijima: When quotas only paint half of the picture

Cape Cobras all-rounder Aviwe Mgijima has travelled a long, hard road to recognition. Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images.

Cape Cobras all-rounder Aviwe Mgijima has travelled a long, hard road to recognition. Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images.

The Cape Cobras all-rounder has flourished under Cricket South Africa’s transformation policies but it’s hardly the only reason.

When cricketers are asked what their objectives are for a new season, many of them have pretty big ones.

“International cricket” is one that’s mentioned quite frequently.

Aviwe Mgijima isn’t one of them.

He kept his aims simple for the start of the new domestic season.

“I had a few other objectives but the main one was to score a first-class hundred. That was a real itch,” the Cape Cobras all-rounder said.

“I made quite a lot of fifties last season (five in all) but I never converted them into a big score.”

Mgijima didn’t waste much time accomplishing that.

In the very first round of Sunfoil Series fixtures, the 29-year-old made a fluent 112 against the Knights.

“Yeah, I was quite happy with that,” is his short reply.

Mgijima has definitely built on that platform, making further scores of 90 and 63 in a productive few weeks that see him average over 43.

Yet the interesting thing about his emergence is that one could certainly argue it’s a product of Cricket South Africa’s fairly strict quota requirements.

All franchises are required to field six players of colour, of which three must be black African.

An extended run – which might not have been given to Mgijima had it not been for CSA’s policy – has certainly done wonders for his game.

It’s especially relevant if one considers seven of his 13 fifties have been scored at franchise level.

Mgijima only scored his other six over eight years in the lowly semi-professional provincial system (the level below franchise cricket).

In other words, he became better by being “throw in at the deep end” at franchise level, not by biding his time a step lower.

However, that’s actually only half of the picture.

“It’s really interesting to see Aviwe’s performances being put down to CSA’s quota requirements,” said former Proteas stalwart and Cobras head coach Ashwell Prince.

“Perhaps the ability was always there but not nurtured nearly as much as compared to what others enjoy.”

It’s a valid point.

After all, having to pick three black Africans doesn’t mean you have to give them a fair chance – you could pick three different guys in every new match.

As a consequence, no-one develops properly.

Prince can take credit for taking the longer view.

“When Ashwell came on board as assistant coach during last year’s off-season, he boosted me. He showed faith in me,” said Mgijima.

“We immediately started working on a few technical things and gradually, I started gaining confidence in my ability. I was getting a proper chance.”

It’s the reason why he doesn’t cite anything in particular for his cracking form this season.

“I’ve just built on my form from last season. I made my runs then, now I just wanted to score big runs. I feel settled now, Ashwell trusts me as the No 5 in our batting order.”

Having started his franchise career as a patently under-appreciated bowling all-rounder, Mgijima now considers himself a batting all-rounder.

“I wouldn’t say I made a point of becoming a batting all-rounder,” he said.

“You just sort of realise that you’re better at one discipline than another. To me, I feel stronger with the bat but I still like to bowl. It’s been a road full of hard work but it has its reward.”

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8 December 2018 THE VAAL

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