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    Socio-ecological factors in talent development

    in cricketers in a diverse society

    Mary Ann Dove (jrdmar002)

    This thesis is submitted for the degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Division of Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine

    Department of Human Biology

    University of Cape Town, South Africa

    June 2018

    Supervisors: Dr Catherine Draper (University of Cape Town)

    Dr Janine Gray (University of Cape Town, Cricket South Africa)

    Dr Sharhidd Taliep (Cape Peninsula University of Technology)

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    The copyright of this thesis vests in the author. No quotation from it or information derived from it is to be published without full acknowledgement of the source. The thesis is to be used for private study or non- commercial research purposes only.

    Published by the University of Cape Town (UCT) in terms of the non-exclusive license granted to UCT by the author.

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    I, Mary Ann Dove hereby declare that the work on which this thesis is based, is my original

    work (except where acknowledgements indicate otherwise) and that neither the whole work

    nor any part of it has been, is being, or is to be submitted for another degree in this or any

    other university. I authorise the University to reproduce for the purpose of research, either

    the whole or any portion of the contents in any manner whatsoever.


    Date: 17 June 2018

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    Introduction: In recent years, there has been a move to understand the environment and

    context in which athletes develop. South Africa’s unique context provides an opportunity to

    understand how environmental factors could influence talent development in cricket. Since

    democracy, there has been limited representation of Black African cricketers at the elite levels

    in South Africa. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to determine the role that socio-

    ecological factors may play in the development of cricket talent in a diverse society.

    Methods: Qualitative research methods were used to explore the experiences and

    perceptions of South Africa’s male cricketers as they progressed through the talent pathway

    from exposure to the game to the elite level. The perceived effectiveness of the introduction

    of an ethnic target policy was also explored. Seventy-one semi-structured interviews were

    conducted with a purposive sample of players from all ethnic groups (n=43), and with

    knowledgeable and experienced key informants (n=16). A thematic analysis of the data

    resulted in the identification of themes which are presented using a multi-level socio-

    ecological framework.

    Results: All players progressed to the elite level; however, their access points to and routes

    through the pathway varied. This progress was influenced by the inter-relationship of distal

    and proximal socio-ecological factors that they experienced during their cricketing careers.

    These influences can be summarised into five talent development components that acted

    either as barriers or enablers to progress: (1) access to opportunities and competition, (2)

    holistic player development, (3) effective support networks, (4) inclusive team environments,

    and (5) adaptive mind-sets. In addition, various intrapersonal characteristics were identified

    that further affect a player’s ability to achieve elite cricketing success. Finally, it was

    determined that an ethnic target policy alone is not an effective intervention for developing

    cricket talent in a diverse society undergoing transition.

    Conclusion: A socio-ecological framework to talent development lends additional support to

    the idiosyncratic, multifactorial, dynamic and complex way in which cricket expertise is

    achieved, particularly in diverse societies. It provides stakeholders involved in the talent

    development process with evidence to inform policy and practice, as well as design effective


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    This thesis is the culmination of a lifetime of interest and involvement in cricket: playing in the

    garden as a young child, watching the game from recreation to international level, mentoring

    young players as they navigated the various challenges encountered, facilitating mental

    preparation for young international players and professional cricketers, advising parents on

    how best to positively inspire and encourage their sons and daughters as they progressed

    through the junior levels, supporting my own son in his school cricket escapades and finally

    six years of researching the myriad of complexities that comprise the game in South Africa.

    Along the way, many people have played various roles for which I am eternally grateful. If I

    have forgotten anyone, it is not a deliberate omission, but you know who you are.

    Firstly, a standing ovation to my three coaches who have participated in this test match with

    me: Cathi, you have constantly guided and coached me as I both dropped the ball and

    eventually managed to hold enough catches to complete the match. And hopefully along the

    way you gained more cricket knowledge than when we started. Sharhidd, your gentle,

    medium paced deliveries enabled me to remain calm and collected as I built a winning score

    to win the match. And lastly, my batting partner Janine. Without your ongoing patience,

    guidance, support, understanding, knowledge and friendship, I would not have managed to

    complete the innings of a lifetime. It has indeed been a full five-day test match, almost but

    thankfully not quite a timeless test.

    A round of applause to the South African cricketing family: Cricket South Africa for having the

    foresight to embark upon the initial research, for your support of the ongoing work that

    enabled the academic process to be completed and for implementing many of the

    recommendations that this research highlighted for the benefit of present and future

    generations of South African cricketers. Most importantly to all the participants - players and

    key informants – my thanks for your time that you so generously gave me during the interview

    process and for trusting me to share your experiences and stories that form the backbone of

    this thesis. Without you, this would not have been possible.

    Praise for ESSM, who have been the support in the dressing room for many years: Professors

    Tim Noakes, Vicky Lambert and Mike Lambert who opened my mind to Sports Science some

    30 years ago when I was a young honours student. It fuelled a passion that never died, even

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    though I took a 25-year sabbatical before returning to the fold. You have stood the test of time

    and together with all the other academic and administrative staff over the years have built

    ESSM into the world-class research centre that it is today. My fellow students, whom I

    affectionately refer to as ‘the kids’, because most of you could be my children, thank you for

    tolerating this ‘mama’ in your midst and good luck with your future careers. Some of us have

    laughed and cried together as we grappled with understanding new knowledge and managing

    the high expectations of our ‘teachers’.

    A slow clap for the spectators in the stands: My friends who have, despite questioning my

    sanity, provided sustained encouragement, sustenance, coffee and wine to see this test match

    to its conclusion.

    And finally, my heartfelt love and appreciation to my family who have been there from before

    the match began: My Jardine brothers, thank you for coercing me to play endless Sunday ‘test’

    matches in our garden, although only allowing me to bat and field as “girls can’t bowl!” This

    introduction to the traditions, culture and characters of a game that tests your heart, body

    and soul have provided me with the attributes required to get to the last few balls. Roger and

    Caro, thank you for playing 12th man and substituting as parents to my kids when times were

    tough. Mum and dad, with your bird’s eye view from the sky, know that I am for ever grateful

    for your investment in my education and the carefree life you enabled us to enjoy during our

    childhood. It has given me the skills and perseverance to get to this point in the game.

    My two darling children, who deserve the World Cup trophy for enduring endless hours of

    inattention while your mother was ‘in the zone’ collecting those last few runs. Alastair, as a

    young boy you dreamed of being the next Alan Donald. We even gave you the right initials!

    But in the end, you have chosen your own path, on which you continue to score big each and

    every day. And Jennifer, your constant cheery face provided me with much joy and broke the

    tedium of those single runs as I inched closer to the target. By now you do know that Kagiso

    Rabada is the best bowler in the world! Last, but not least, my beloved Andy. You only

    managed to see the first innings live before you we