Cape Town Blitz coach Ashwell Prince has highlighted the importance of Mzansi Super League teams building a brand with identity rather than just strong squads with big-name individuals.
One of the noticeable traits at last week’s Player Draft held in Soweto was the obvious strategy of the six franchises to sign players they were familiar with.
The Tshwane Spartans and defending champions Jozi Stars were particularly strategic in this regard, with the 2018 winners signing more than 10 players that had played at the Bidvest Wanderers at some point or the other in the past.
The Spartans too went the same route and also signed a high quantity of players with vast SuperSport Park experience, while Prince said that he too tried to bring in players that were familiar to their surroundings at PPC Newlands.
“We got some good continuity with players like (Mohammad) Nawaz and Asif Ali coming back again,” he explained. “There’s also Dale Steyn and (Anrich) Nortje.
“Then there’s obviously also some of the Cape Town boys who play their franchise cricket at the Cobras like David Bedingham, Vernon Philander, George Linde, so we got continuity from Blitz and we got some local players a well that the crowd and the fans can associate with.
“I think it’s important to build that rapport and that connection with the fans, so we look forward to the season. Ultimately it all boils down to what you do on the field and not what you have on paper.
“So, I'm very happy with the squad. We’ve got quite a nice bowling attack, we’ve got some exciting batsmen, there’s quite a few spinners in there and we feel we can mix and match some good combinations, so overall I'm happy with the squad.”
The signing of Linde, in particular, raised a few eyebrows after his selection by another franchise saw the only ‘match-to-buy’ card played during the entire draft process by a team.
It essentially allows a franchise the player represented last season to have first right over signing him.
“The thing with the match-to-buy situation, we had players from around round eight to round 13, and he was our number one guy,” Prince elaborated. “If someone went in for him, we were always going to flag for him.
“We always wanted him, both as a left-arm spinner and also as a middle-order batsman, who can be devastating with the bat as well.”
Another exciting signature made by the Blitz was the acquisition of double-arm spinner, Gregory Mahlokoana.
Of the Northerns player, Prince added: “For me it’s about the skill the player brings and the responsibility that he’s been tasked with in the past. Bowling for the (Multiply) Titans at SuperSport Park, it’s a tough ground to bowl at, he bowls in the powerplay and his economy rate is quite good.
“It’s more the skill and also the responsibility the player has had to shoulder before, which indicates that he is up to the challenge. That was what drew us towards him.
“Bowling in the middle overs is different to bowling at the start, and he’s done that successfully in the past, which is sort of the valuable experience we were looking for.”
The Blitz reached the final last season and will be looking to go one better this time around. Prince says that having big-name players was not always a winning formula.
“At the end of the day there’s a lot of big names that people know,” he added. “But for me it’s more about fitting the pieces together, rather than going for the first biggest name that is available on the list.”
All MSL games will be played over a five-week period starting on 8 November with the final scheduled to take place on 16 December.
CAPE TOWN BLITZ: Quinton de Kock, Wahab Riaz (Pakistan), Liam Livingstone (England), Dale Steyn (retained player), Sisanda Magala, Anrich Nortje (retained player), Asif Ali (Pakistan, retained player), Mohammad Nawaz (Pakistan), Janneman Malan (retained player), George Linde, David Bedingham, Vernon Philander, Marques Ackerman, Gregory Mahlokoana, Aviwe Mgijima