Johannesburg – Despite finishing bottom of the table in all three domestic competitions last season, new Lions captain Stephen Cook is optimistic his side can turn things around.
Just two seasons ago, the Lions bagged the domestic 20-over title and finished second in the four-day series. According to Cook, the Highveld outfit would be targeting a welcome return to contending for trophies.
“The four day competition is one I've never won,” Cook said at the Dobsonville Cricket Oval on Thursday, where his side were preparing to take on the Titans in the Ekasi Challenge on Friday.
“For me that's the one I really want. I know one-day cricket gets a lot more coverage, but if you can win that four-day competition, you're probably the most consistent side throughout the season.
“That's 40 days out of the 60-odd match days in the season, so that's the trophy I'd like to hold aloft above all others. Beggars can't be choosers though, so I'll take whatever I can get.”
A number of key players for the Lions were not available last season through national call-ups and injury. Alviro Petersen relinquished the captaincy mid-season, explosive opening batsman Quinton de Kock was called up to the Proteas, and bowler Chris Morris picked up an ankle injury which needed surgery in February to add their woes.
“Even the best teams go through periods of difficulty, and it's key for us to try and separate ourselves from what goes on behind the scenes and get on with playing,” said Cook.
“I'm confident we've got some pretty level-headed guys in the team that can set good examples.”
Player availability aside, Cook said his team accepted their shortcomings which were reflected in their results.
“By all accounts we were poor last year, in all disciplines. We let ourselves down. We probably came unstuck as we weren't quite prepared for the number of national call-ups.
“We had to try and plug some gaps and the winter has given us time to sort out those issues.”
In the wake of Petersen handing over the captaincy, Cook hoped to contribute both in a leadership role and as an opening batsman.
“I just want to bring some calmness to the team and steady the ship. I also want to be consistent, score a load of runs and try push for a national honours. I'm only 31, I've been around a while but I still harbour ambitions of playing for South Africa and playing Test cricket.
“I know you're never far off from it. You get a couple hundreds at the start of the year and you never know.” – Sapa