AB de Villiers is the obvious man to lead the Spartans in the new Mzansi Super League. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG – AB de Villiers as a captain again?

On the one hand it’s the obvious move for the Tshwane Spartans. On the other, everyone can still vividly recall the way De Villiers’ last stint as a captain ended. He wanted nothing more to do with captaincy after that, but now, well, there was little option for either him or the franchise’s coach Mark Boucher.

The only other viable option to captain the Tshwane squad is Eoin Morgan, and he is missing the first half of the competition owing to prior commitments elsewhere.

De Villiers is also the most high-profile player in the Mzansi Super League. Cricket South Africa is leaning heavily on his presence to promote the competition, which up until yesterday afternoon - just three days before the first ball is bowled - is still without a sponsor.

From De Villiers’ perspective, however, the captaincy of the Spartans will provide a chance at redemption of sorts.

“I believe I’m a decent man-manager when it comes to understanding players’ strengths and weaknesses. I’m looking forward to it. It’s an exciting challenge and I’m ready for it,” he said.

The Spartans squad is largely made up of players De Villiers is familiar with - there are six Titans players, while Morgan, Robbie Frylinck and Rory Kleinveldt are all players he’s played with previously.

“The players that make up our squad are leaders in their own right but you need someone to tie that all together and AB knows these conditions better than anyone. He’s comfortable in his own space and in tournaments like these,” said Boucher.

For Boucher, who inadvertently confirmed De Villiers’ role as captain two weeks ago, the decision was always an obvious one.

“In the IPL he’s played in big pressure matches so he’s the perfect man for the job,” said the Spartans coach, who, going back to their playing days for the Proteas, has always been close to De Villiers.

“He leads from the front and plays with great intensity. For T20 cricket that’s what the game is all about. AB and Virat Kohli are from the same sort of mould, and how Virat rallies his team is how I think AB will rally the Spartans.”

De Villiers will lead the Spartans out in the MSL opener at Newlands on Friday against the Cape Town Blitz, who will also be led by a player De Villiers has a close bond with - another Titans teammate Farhaan Behardien.

“We start with three away games which is not normally ideal, but on the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to get a few away wins under the belt and hopefully we start well,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jozi Stars will be captained by Dane Vilas, who started his professional career in Joburg before moving to Cape Town, then signing a Kolpak contract with Lancashire and also a deal with the KZN Dolphins as an overseas pro.

“Dane is a vastly experienced cricketer who will have the complete respect of the dressing room,” said Stars coach Enoch Nkwe.

The Stars, whose big names include Chris Gayle and Kagiso Rabada, open their campaign at the Wanderers on Saturday night against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants.


The Star

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