Long-serving cricket administrator Nabeal Dien retired at the end of April, having served five years as the chief executive officer of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA).
On Monday May 4, the Newlands-based association announced that current financial manager Tennyson Botes, will act as interim CEO. Dien has been a servant of the game since 1982 when he co-founded Garlandale Cricket Club and later became a member of the WP Cricket Board.
Dien’s time has, of course, not only been all about cricket.
Coming from a socially and politically conscious background, in 1985 he started teaching at Tafelsig High School. The decision to teach there, he said, was not a random one.
“My father wanted me to teach in a disadvantaged area rather than a middle class one, so for me it was either Hanover Park or Tafelsig. So, it was with that in mind that I ended up at Tafelsig,” he said.
He spent seven years at Tafelsig and during that time he was also a track referee, in athletics. His journey with WPCA kicked off in 1997.
And, during his 22 years at the Newlands Cricket Ground, Dien witnessed the game evolve into what it is today. He also played an active role in helping shape the future direction of the sport. In fact, he served in different capacities including those involving youth development, club and women’s cricket, the stadium, marketing and HR.
In an interview with Plainsman this week, Dien said youth and grassroots cricket have been close to his heart.
Former Proteas JP Duminy, Rory Kleinveldt and many others, went on to become household names after being mentored by Dien.
It is no surprise, then, that he has always been involved in youth development programmes such as the JP21 Foundation, which is described as a commitment “to reigniting the passion and enthusiasm for the game of cricket in underprivileged communities and schools”.
Dien said lack of proper facilities at grassroots level has been one of the biggest challenges facing cricket.
“The problem has been there for years, our township schools and clubs do not have facilities. You can try to grow the sport but what’s the use if you don’t have facilities?”
He also noted that, when South Africa hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003, there were about 26 500 active youth players.
“But, from 2004 that number went down due to a number of problems. We had the players but teams had no facilities, and now we have about 14 000 youth players.”
Dien also stressed the importance of equipping coaches as the game of cricket continues to become more complex.
“Coaches, like teachers, are expected to be highly-qualified, so it is important to make sure we upskill them. We need to put more money in that regard,” he said.
In a tribute to Dien, former WPCA president and current vice-president of Cricket South Africa (CSA), Beresford Williams said: “Nabeal was indeed a rock during his time at WPCA and Western Cape Cricket. He always managed to stay calm and reasonable and his ability to never be flustered when dealing with complexities within his realm of responsibility, can only be admired. He would always seek to find resolution and foster relationships to grow the organisation.”
Advocate Nick Kock, president of WPCA, said Dien had become part of the fabric that is WP cricket.
“His passion for youth cricket and his ability to build bridges between communities at a very critical juncture in our history will leave an indelible mark on our association. We are grateful for his long service and wish him well in his retirement.”