The effects of structural change: An investigation into the South African cricket development pathway

Cedric English, Christine Nash, Russell Martindale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sports organisations face immense challenge, both structurally and organisationally, in coordinating talent-development processes. This complex interaction may be exacerbated by structural change and sports policy decision-making, not only changing the way pathway elements interact and individuals progress, but also the quality of the learning and development domain. The aim of this research was to investigate the development pathway of South African cricketers and the impact of change to the provincial structure in 2004. Twelve semi-structured interviews with highly experienced players, coaches and administrators raised a number of themes. Specifically, the changes reduced elite playing opportunities and narrowed pathway options. Club cricket standards dropped, reducing its viability as a pool for talent identification and effective development. This placed stress on age-related academies as a fundamental development environment and the need to select talent ‘into the system’ earlier, which has implications for late developers and the extent to which chance influences development. Practical consequences, in the long-term, not only reduce the participation base and narrow the performance pathway, but also impact on the overall health of SA domestic and international games. Findings also reinforce the theoretical models, acknowledging sports development as an individual and nonlinear process and confirm cricket as a late developing sport, stressing the importance of those development environments between mass participation and elite performance (school/club/university) to retain structure, competition and exhibit the greatest flexibility and coherency. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Early online date10 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 May 2018


  • cricket
  • sports policy
  • structural change
  • talent-development environments


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