Dinesha Devnarain is humbled by her inclusion as a finalist in the Coach of the Year category for the 2020 Momentum gsport Awards. Her dual role as head coach of the Women’s Under-19 and Cricket South Africa (CSA) Women’s National Academy blossoms with the promise of further growth for woman’s cricket.

The former Proteas all-rounder is joined by Banyana Banyana’s Desiree Ellis and Dorette Badenhorst from the Spar Proteas who are also in run for the Coach of the Year. Devnarain feels honoured to be a finalist alongside women of such caliber who she admires in the coaching industry.

Although, Devnarain completed her Human Resources Management Degree Cum Laude from MANCOSA, she kept finding herself on the cricket field. She believes that she has undoubtedly found her purpose in life by becoming a cricket coach, her coaching philosophy is centered around the notion of better people inevitably becoming better cricketers.

The future of cricket lies on her shoulders but she remains unfazed by the beautiful challenge, with hopes that South African cricket grows and support & resources are fairly allocated and accessible across gender lines.

After being involved in coaching for the last five years, Devnarain encourages young girls to stay true to themselves and not stray from their values because in the end hard work always pays off.

What does the gsport award recognition mean to Devnarain and what does the future hold for her? We found out.

Congratulations on your 2020 gsport nomination for the Coach of the Year Award! What was your initial reaction when you found out? 

I took a moment to myself and thanked God and every single person that believed in me and that nominated me for this award. It’s a real honor that people take notice of the work you do and that you can be recognized for your efforts.

At this moment, I’m still very appreciative and blessed to be a finalist against women I really admire.

As a former Proteas player yourself, you must understand the difficulty in nurturing young female talent for the future of women’s cricket in our country. How important is your role as Coach at both u-19 and National Academy level? 

My role is vital, extremely important in that I hold the future of women’s cricket through this post, and that I am in a position to mold and create upcoming cricketers for our country.

To me it is not just about creating athletes at the highest level but it’s being able to produce match winning Proteas. Also, to empower them to be leaders and decision makers in their own right, part of my coaching philosophy is to be better people first and the cricket always follows.

How do you feel being nominated alongside some of South Africa’s household names?

Intimidating actually, but in a good way! It makes me realize the impact I have on South African cricket. It’s incredible in all honesty, speaks volumes of the work I have done and will still have to do.

You come from a cricket loving country and province, where did your love for the game start? And what prompted you to later take up coaching?

In a small suburb called Bakerton, Springs in Gauteng. Just like most South Africans, I started with street cricket, but I must admit at first, soccer was my first love and then my dad [Jay Devnarain] and brothers [Naresh and Rishaan Devnarain] introduced me to cricket. After that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about cricket and how I’m going to show these boys how it’s done!

I always love helping and empowering people and helping them progress in life, and I found that coaching gave me a platform to achieve that, so in 2015 after completing my level 3 certificate, I made a decision that this is what I want to do with my life and I honestly believe I have found my purpose in life.

Did you have a mentor when you were younger who guided you in the world of cricket?

I can’t really pinpoint an individual, I think every person you come across in life can add value or you can take the lessons learned from that encounter. Although I must say, my dad and brothers stood by me when a little Indian girl wanted to fulfil her dreams in a ‘male dominated’ sector. My dad is my hero, always will be. He made me realize you can only conform to society if you let in. We are on borrowed time on earth, find out what keeps igniting the flame in you and chase it and don’t let anything be the detriment to your values and humility as a person.

Everything is always impossible till it’s done, no matter what you want to get out of life or achieve as a person. Be kind, be compassionate

You spoke about your coaching philosophy; can you tell me more about it and where it stems from?

Coaching philosophies can just be taken as just tick box exercises, that’s why it’s so important for the philosophy to reflect you as a coach and as a person, mine is simple & is a reflection of me. I believe in people first; I can’t expect performances out of an individual if I don’t understand them as a person. I believe in being better each day, no matter how big or how marginal, if we can improve 1% better than the day before or if we, as a unit, learnt something, that’s how I measure success.

It’s closely linked to the way I live my life and how I enjoy people and the diversities that come with that.

Do you think your experience playing has helped you in better grasping the world of coaching? Please share some of your experiences with this transition. 

Yes, I do believe that. I wouldn’t say it’s a main factor because playing the game doesn’t necessarily make you a great coach but it gives you a foot forward in the experiences and knowledge about the game at the highest level.

I do miss playing the game, I think I always will but being in a position to impart knowledge and grow cricketers to be better and excel in the sport gives me a greater accomplishment of purpose and that’s one of my biggest blessing.

How would being a gsport award recipient help propel your career in coaching?

Massively, firstly, (although I think it already has) just to be nominated. I am in a position now to help spread the women’s game and get exposure throughout South Africa on various social platforms and the media.

Whether or not I receive the award, I am already motivated to do better and be better, although winning the award will be a nice feeling too!

Who inspires you to reach for your goals?

My family, the community, the little girls that pick up a bat and ball for the first time, for women, for all South Africans, this is what inspires me and drives me to be better and do better.

What are some of your hopes for the future of women’s cricket in South Africa?

I’m not one to compare to our male counterparts but I would love similar resources to be put in the women’s game as well as exposure. I’d love to see our provincial structures becoming more professional.

One day I would love for all of us as citizens of South Africa to talk about cricket as one, and not women’s cricket or men’s cricket. Let’s enhance and grow the game that’s not subjective to gender.

And lastly I would love for the Proteas to be in the top 3 of world rankings, consistently.

Lastly, for any young girls who are hoping to put on our national colours one day, by either playing or coaching, what words of encouragement can you send their way?

Be authentic, be brave and be true to yourself and what you believe in.

It’s good to have role models, they give you an idea of what you want to achieve but also know to get there, you have to stay true to what you believe and don’t stray away from your values and culture to conform to the norm.

Hard work pays off and there’s no shortcut to that!