CLT20 Team Preview- Warriors
Continuing his preview of the 2010 Champions League Twenty20 tournament in South Africa, Sandru Santhana Anandaraj looks at the home contingent and he rates the Warriors as a serious contender for this year’s title.
South Africa was one of the earliest adopters of the shortest format of the game, with their first domestic tournament (known as the Pro20) kicking off in 2003-04, a good two years in front of Australia and five years in front of the Lalit Modi sideshow (sometimes referred to as the DLF-Karbonn-Citi-Vodafone-Langwarrin Local Hotel- Indian Premier League). Not surprisingly, they are one of the three governing bodies represented on the CLT20 Governing Council, alongside the BCCI and Cricket Australia.
The domestic Twenty20 structure in South Africa is a crossover between Australia’s Big Bash and the IPL. It borrows the franchise style system from the BCCI but instead of representing cities, the teams are representing provinces and regions (in a similar mould to the Australians). Interestingly, the administrators at Cricket South Africa admitted Zimbabwe into the Pro20 tournament in 2008; perhaps an important move in keeping the side competitive and somewhat match fit in otherwise dark times. The move was a one off though, but the West Indian Cricket Board have followed South Africa’s lead in allowing a national cricket side to participate in a domestic tournament; Canada was in the Carribean Twenty20 competition this year (a superb move, I might add but that’s for another time).
South Africa will be providing two teams to the tournament as they did last year: the Warriors and Highveldt Lions. This article will focus on the Warriors.
Previous CLT20 form: N/A, debuting in 2010
Domestic form: Winners, 2009-10 Pro20 Tournament
Captain: Davy Jacobs
Key players: Juan “Rusty” Theron, Mark Boucher, Johan Botha, Makhaya Ntini
International players (09-10): None
The Warriors bear some resemblance to the Cape Cobras in the 2009 edition of the CLT20, in that they had a significant number of current international players in their ranks (amongst others, the Cobras had Herschelle Gibbs and JP Duminy up their sleeves). They Cobras had a big loss last year with an injury ruling out regular captain Graeme Smith (he was replaced by the relatively unknown Andrew Puttick)- the same has happened to the Warriors in that Jacques Kallis has to play for his IPL team, the Royal Challengers of Bangalore. It is a real shame for the Warriors as they won’t have access to an experienced international cricketer who has worked hard to reinvent himself as an opener in the shortest format of the game. It is quite appalling that such an experienced cricketer is not allowed to play for their home side in a tournament (the Victorian Bushrangers’ Cameron White also has the same problem); the representatives of Cricket South Africa should be slamming their fists at the next CLT20 Governing Council meeting.
That said, the Warriors have a lot of punch in both the batting and bowling departments. For all of his recent struggles the test side, Ashwell Prince did very well for himself in the final of the Pro20; he anchored the innings with Kallis for much of their innings before giving Mark Boucher and Colin Ingram free reign to belt the ball out of the park. Ingram and Boucher are at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to international experience and age. Ingram, the leading run scorer in the last Pro20, is the emerging hitter in the team who has spent some time in the ‘A’ squad (the proper one, not the franchise in England) and I imagine that he will be in the running for a spot on the national Twenty20 squad over the coming months; whether he breaks into the team permanently is another question altogether. Boucher on the other hand is the battled hardened international who is effective behind the stumps and can hold his own in tough situations and he is certainly not afraid of dishing it out as well. The Warriors will rely on these two to finish off a weakened opposition or anchor the team through a tough spell of bowling.
The bowling department is also filled with current and ex international players. Makhya Ntini may have been left out of the test side, but he was one of the leading wicket takers in the Pro20 with eleven wickets. Bowling on pitches with a bit of spice will help him get some steep bounce and some useful outswing which seemed to have disappeared from his game over the last year or so. Maybe the tournament will show him and the rest of the world his talents as he has been a very loyal servant to South African cricket.
Like him or loathe him, Johan Botha will be making an appearance in the bowling line up. While his “egg whisking” action (Jarrod’s words, not mine) has not impressed the ICC biomechanists at times, you cannot deny the man’s role in tying down sides after the initial six over Powerplay. Along with Roelof van der Merwe’s left arm orthodox spin, he literally toyed around with the Australian batsmen’s minds in the limited overs games in South Africa and Australia last year; there were very few spells where he went for four-and-a-half runs or more per over. Spin is one of the key tools that has emerged over the last couple of years (particularly since the first IPL and the 2009 World Twenty20 in England), and Botha’s four over spell in each of the games will be the difference between a “competitive” (the writer throws various missiles at his television whenever he hears that word in media conferences) and an easily chasable score.
Rusty Theron that may ring a bell for attentive IPL viewers (mind you, who would be after those annoying ads with Virender Sehwag in them!). He got a contract with the Kings XI Punjab following his eleven wicket tally in the Pro20 and did very well for himself in his first game- bowling the Super Over that gave the Kings XI the game. He will pair up with Ntini to open the bowling.
One thing that will be of concern to the Warrior’s coaching staff will be the number of close finishes that . Sure, they may have held their nerve in those games (unlike the national side in ICC tournaments), but with Twenty20 powerhouses such as Victoria also in the same group as the Warriors, they will want to definitively close out matches, rather than rely on superb death bowling because it does not always work; sometimes even the best yorker can be magically turned into runs. To close out matches, you need wickets, which again is a concern for the Warriors. Only in the final did they bowl their opposition out. The return of the international players may provide that spark to get those ten wickets but the Warriors must be thinking wickets rather than containing at every possible opportunity.
TTA Prediction-Semi finalists
Aside from the Bushrangers, the Warriors are the only other team who will almost certainly make the semi finals. The key for success for the Warriors will be that the international players are actually team members who are part of a cohesive unit, rather than be mercenaries for a franchise. Their knowledge of local conditions will also help their cause too.
Games- 11 Sep (VS Wayamba), 13 Sep (VS Bushrangers), 18 Sep (VS Central Stags), 22 Sep (VS Super Kings)
Sandru Santhana Anandaraj
The True Allrounder’s Chief Correspondent
Follow him online @fourth_stump