West Indies star Kieron Pollard celebrates with his Cape Cobras teammates during a 2016 T20 Challenge game. Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - The Cape Cobras are set to continue their investment in the talented youth of the region for the upcoming T20 Challenge series despite the availability of several “guns for hire”.

With the Global T20 League - where each of the eight franchises had an international marquee player - postponed until next year there is an abundance of foreign players available on the market right now.

High-profile T20 players like West Indies World T20 champions Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo alongside former England superstar Kevin Pietersen and former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum could all potentially be signed up by the local franchises.

However, under the new regime of coach Ashwell Prince and captain Dane Piedt, the Cobras will remain committed to giving young players the best opportunity of playing for South Africa.

Although the Cobras have yet to win a Sunfoil Series match after five rounds - only the Titans have won a match - they are well-placed to launch a title challenge when the four-day competition resumes next February.

In the interim, though, the strides made by young players such as batsman Zubayr Hamza (303 at an average of 60.60) and bowlers Lizaad Willams and Michael Cohen has been hugely encouraging. Coupled with the advancement of former Western Province semi-pro opening batsman Pieter Malan - 446 runs at an average of 63.71 - in his first full season of franchise cricket, the policy has been particularly fruitful.

The only concern for Prince and Co. may be the lean run of form promising all-rounder Jason Smith is experiencing. The former Wynberg Boys High prodigy burst on to the domestic scene 18 months ago with a half-century on his franchise limited-overs debut before following it up with a 95 and maiden century at the beginning of the Sunfoil Series last year.

However, Smith has endured a torrid time through the winter for the South Africa 'A' team, and now for the Cobras. He’s already seen Highveld Lions teenager Wiaan Mulder leapfrog him into the Proteas ODI outfit and also faces a battle to keep his place in the Cobras side.

Independent Media, though, understands the Cobras hierarchy are steadfast in the belief that 23-year-old Smith has the talent to push through this tough period he is currently experiencing.

With this is mind, it is becomes clearer why the Cobras would not want to get the likes of a Pollard, who has admittedly been hugely successful at the Cobras in previous T20 Challenge campaigns, as they also have Proteas Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Dane Paterson, Rory Kleinveldt and Wayne Parnell available over the course of the coming weeks.

All these internationals will no doubt add a wealth of talent to the Cobras squad, but their experience will also be invaluable in guiding the likes of Smith through this delicate stage of his fledgling career.

Cape Times

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