By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE- BOTSWANA is one of the few countries in the world which shares a border with two Test cricket playing nations.
But the gulf in class with its neighbours, Zimbabwe to the north and South Africa at the other end, has remained enormous. Zimbabwe, despite a well-documented slide, has remained one of the 10 Test-playing nations while their neighbours, South Africa’s Proteas, are a potent force.
The Botswana Cricket Association (BCA), run mostly by citizens of Asian descent, has taken a deliberate route to attract thousands of young blacks into the game.
In less than six years, the number of public schools that play cricket has risen to more than 300, with 5,000 players involved.
It is a programme that has delivered a rising star.
Thatayaone Tshose has made a nation that is not too keen on cricket, to stand up and take notice.
“It (the programme) is working. We have a lot of government schools involved,” Tshose said in an interview with The Southern Times.
At only 20, Tshose has already played his way into the history books. In June, he became the first Motswana to join an English-based club. Tshose was signed by Kelvedon and Feering, a club that campaigns in England’s third-tier cricket league.
It was a massive breakthrough for the youngster, who went to a modest government school, Itumeleng, in the working class area of Broadhurst in the capital Gaborone.
He enjoyed a three-month stay in England and received rave reviews for his raw pace, which generated prodigious swing, perfectly suited for the English conditions on the green pitches.
Tshose is decent with the bat too and showcased his batting power during his stay in the UK with an unbeaten half century. At the end of his English stay, Tshose was already being courted by Colts Cricket Club in Australia.
He was scheduled to leave last month, but his departure was delayed by visa problems. He was left devastated but the Australian club assured him that its doors will still be open next season. In Australia, Tshose would have doubled up as a player and development coach.
He remains keen on pursuing his career abroad. “I want to go back abroad. In Botswana, you cannot make a living through cricket. Yes, we get allowances when we tour but it’s not enough,” he says.
The majority of his age-mates enjoy a game of football on the dusty streets because, to them, cricket is too complicated, a game reserved for the elite.
But Tshose, born in Mochudi, a village just 20 kilometres northeast of the capital, chose the unfamiliar route, which appears to be paying off.
“I wanted something different from football. I used to play football but I felt that I should try something else,” he says.
His rise to the top has been nothing short of meteoric as he started cricket at the age of 11, and just four years later, he broke into the national side.
The right arm medium pacer was fast-tracked into the national team after impressive performances for the Under-19 side where he registered career best figures.
He nipped seven wickets in one international friendly in Zimbabwe and his then coach, Arjun Menon, was bowled over and immediately threw him into the deep end.
A tour of England earlier this year was to open the doors for Tshose, who impressed in a friendly match against Kelvedon.
He admires veteran player and former Botswana skipper, James Moses, who at 50 is still going strong.
Tshose says his family has been supportive of his chosen career path and regularly attend local matches. Menon, who now coaches Singapore, was impressed with what he saw in Tshose.
“What struck me most about this young boy was that he was very physically developed for his age and possessed raw pace, as a bowler, and was hitting extremely high speeds at that tender age. He was also a very dogged and determined individual, which made him a great player to coach,” Menon says.