South Africa’s latest rising cricket star Kwena Maphaka was named Player of the Tournament for the recently concluded U19 World Cup in South Africa, that saw Australia beat India in the final over the past weekend.
Maphaka ended the tournament as the top wicket taker with 21 scalps, just one short of the record set by Bangladesh’s Enamul Haque Jr in 2014.
However he did make a bit of history by becoming the first player to ever pick up three five wicket hauls at an U19 World Cup, with superb figures of 5/38 against the West Indies, 5/34 against Zimbabwe and 6/21 against Sri Lanka.
He now joins fellow South Africans Dominic Hendricks (2010), Aiden Markram (2014) and Dewald Brevis (2022) to win the prestigious award, and a lot will be expected of the young fast bowler going forward.
However it will do South African fans and administrators well to manage their expectations of the 17-year-old, who is still in his final year of high school at St Stithians in Johannesburg.
There is no reason to rush Maphaka, who could be the next Proteas star, into the national setup with unnecessary and unachievable expectations placed on him at such a young age.
Brevis is currently struggling to live up to the huge expectations placed on him since bursting onto the scene during the 2022 tournament, and even though he has had a decent start to his senior career, many people are still expecting more from him.
It took Markram three years from receiving the award after the 2014 tournament as a 19-year-old, to make his Proteas Test and ODI debuts in 2017, while he only made his T20I debut in 2019.
This is arguably a better way to ease a prodigious player into the national setup, giving him time to find his feet and time to grow into a more rounded player, and the Proteas are now reaping the benefits with Markram one of their top players currently.
That’s not to say that you can’t be successful as a youngster, as Kagiso Rabada showed when he made his Proteas T20I debut as a 19-year-old in 2014, and Test and ODI debuts as a 20-year-old in 2015.
However after an amazing start to his career, which included incredible career best Test figures of 13/144 against England in January 2016, he seems to have tailed off in recent years and become inconsistent, which may be due to the heavy burden placed on him as a youngster.
How Maphaka is managed over his final year in school, and over the next few years could play a pivotal role in his future success for the Proteas.