This time, both teams that played in the previous edition of the Champions League in India-Cape Cobras and Diamond Eagles are missing.
Instead, we have the Warriors and the Highveld Lions. The Warriors, who share their name with the Western Australian state side ( WACA Warriors) comprise players from Eastern Province and Border of South Africa.
The two teams were basically merged in 2003 as Cricket South Africa decided to cut down the number of sides in the domestic competition from eleven to six in a bid to reduce costs and increase quality.
Till 2005, this side was coached by former South African coach Mickey Arthur. The base camp for this team is the St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, and the Buffalo Park in East London. The Warriors won the Standard Bank ProT20 series, the domestic T20 championship.
This team’s biggest loss to the might of IPL ‘dollar power’ is great all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
Kallis was ‘bought’ by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a fact that didn’t go down too well with the locals. Warriors chief, Dave Emslie, in fact, said the IPL contracts prevented players like Kallis to play for their ‘home’ teams.
All this, plus the added advantage and pressure of playing at home, may just fire them up.
In terms of quality, though, this outfit still has plenty to offer. RCB have decided to do without the other ‘biggie’ in the line-up, star wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, and that surely will be a big relief to coach Russell Domingo and captain Davey Jacobs.
His cheeky strokeplay and experience would come in handy. On a personal note, Boucher may want to put in a performance that makes the RCB management regret their decision to not include him.
Moving beyond Boucher, there is Ashwell Prince to shore up the batting department. The spin bowling duties are shared by off-spinner Johan Botha and left-arm-spinner Nicky Boje.
Both provide enough guile and variety to deceive the batsmen. As the IPL showed, Botha can be very difficult to put away. The fast bowling brigade is headed by Makhaya Ntini, who was released by the Chennai Super Kings. Nitni, along with Juan Theron, Lonwabo Tsosobe and Garnett Kruger, should enjoy the bounce of the South African tracks.
Egged on by a raucous home crowd, the Warriors will have the tough challenge of playing against the Chennai Super Kings and the Victoria Bushrangers. They an be expected to get past Wayamba and the Central Districts easily. It’s time to justify their tag of favourites.
How Warriors qualified:
Won the Standard Bank Pro20, thrashing the Highveld Lions, by 82 runs in the final.