The Multiply Titans have a fleet of world-class cricketers in their squad as they head into the RamSlam T20 Challenge campaign, but like a ship setting sail without their crew, the defending champions have to ensure all their skills are onboard and not left behind on the quayside.
AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien, Tabraiz Shamsi, Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Albie Morkel and David Wiese are all back in the squad as the season begins for the Titans with a derby clash against the bizhub Highveld Lions as part of a double-header at SuperSport Park on Sunday.
But coach Mark Boucher says the names count for little and he is putting his faith in the two weeks of detailed preparation the Titans have done.
“It’s all good and well having all those names on paper and the media have been talking about the Titans finishing first and everyone else fighting for second, but we’re not getting dragged into that. The Proteas fit straight back into the team culture and we have done a lot of hard work in preparation, making sure our skills are in place. We still have to go out and play, execute our plans," said Boucher.
While the Titans have tended to have teething problems at the start of their four-day and 50-over campaigns in recent years, in the last two seasons they have started the T20 Challenge with a bang en route to claiming the title.
They lost their first game in 2015/16, but then reeled off a record eight successive victories, while last season they were unbeaten through their first six games. Boucher wants to ensure they hit the ground running again on Sunday.
“It will be nice to start well and we’ve had good preparation, the guys are just keen to get out there and play now. We understand though that in 20/20 cricket it can be anyone’s day and the Lions have a couple of dangerous players we need to look after,” said Boucher.
While the head coach's headaches revolve around who to leave out of the squad, the Lions have had problems in their batting which need to be sorted out.
Rassie van der Dussen has been superbly consistent in giving the team explosive starts, but with plenty of talented strokeplayers like Reeza Hendricks, Mangaliso Mosehle and Dwaine Pretorius in the squad, they will be hoping to provide their opener with better support.
With Kagiso Rabada back in harness, the Lions look powerful with the ball, with Proteas Aaron Phangiso, Pretorius, Wiaan Mulder, Beuran Hendricks and Hardus Viljoen all in the line-up.
The Titans attack has been boosted by the returns of fast bowlers Lungi Ngidi and Junior Dala, and the wicket-taking ability they provide will complement the containment skills of Malusi Siboto, Wiese and Morkel, as well as the attacking wrist-spin of Shamsi.
“I have a lot of confidence in the bowling attack and it’s wonderful to have those two great wicket-takers back,” added Boucher.
The HollywoodBets Dolphins and the WSB Cape Cobras meet in the early match of the double-header. The injury-hit Dolphins have been hit by the withdrawal of ace spinner Imran Tahir and the Proteas-laden Cobras side will be the favourites.
Multiply Titans squad to face the bizhub Highveld Lions (from): Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Henry Davids, AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, David Wiese, Malusi Siboto, Junior Dala, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Eldred Hawken.
bizhub Highveld Highveld Lions: Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks, Mangaliso Mosehle, Dwaine Pretorius, Nicky van den Bergh, Wiaan Mulder, Bjorn Fortuin, Kagiso Rabada, Hardus Viljoen, Aaron Phangiso, Beuran Hendricks, Marques Ackerman, Omphile Ramela, Ryan Rickleton, Wihan Lubbe, Carmi le Roux, Janneman Malan.
WSB Cape Cobras squad to face the Hollywoodbets Dolphins (from): Hashim Amla, Richard Levi, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Aviwe Mgijima, Kyle Verreynne, Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell, Dane Piedt, Dane Paterson, Tshepo Moreki, Qaasim Adams, George Linde, Michael Loubser, Jason Smith, Sammy Mofokeng, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Ferisco Adams.
Hollywoodbets Dolphins: Morné van Wyk, Sarel Erwee, Cody Chetty, Khaya Zondo, Dane Vilas, Andile Phehlukwayo, Robbie Frylinck, Sibonelo Makhanya, Keshav Maharaj, Prenelan Subrayen, Mthokozisi Shezi, Eathan Bosch, Smangaliso Nhlebela, Athi Maposa.