Kagiso Rabada will lead a formidable pace-bowling attack for the Lions in the RamSlam T20 Challenge. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The man-management skills of all the franchise head coaches will be put to the test when the RamSlam T20 Challenge starts this weekend.

With all the Proteas available for the duration of the competition, the coaches face a difficult task in ensuring players – particularly those not in the starting line-up – don’t become distracted or moody.

“It is challenging, but it will be important for me as a coach not to allow those guys who are aren’t playing to just drift away. Guys can get miserable if they don’t play, and that can bring the whole squad down,” said Highveld Lions head coach Geoffrey Toyana.

He may not have selection conundrum being faced by his counterpart at the Titans, Mark Boucher, who has loads of international players to choose from, but that doesn’t mean Toyana is free from selection headaches.

The Lions have Kagiso Rabada as their main star, but can also call upon Dwaine Pretorius, Wiaan Mulder, Mangaliso Mosehle, Reeza Hendricks and Beuran Hendricks, who have all represented the Proteas in the last 12 months.

“Ja, it will give us some selection headaches,” Toyana admitted. “But we have a good squad, it’s well balanced, there are some youngsters, but they are experienced young players too.”

Toyana mentioned Rabada (22) and Mulder (19) as two players who even at their ages have picked up a lot of experience through their appearances at international level.

Opening batsman Reeza Hendricks will hope to have a big tournament to force his way back into the Proteas set-up. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

There is plenty of depth and variety in the Lions’ bowling, but it’s their batting that will be under the most scrutiny in the competition.

That area of their play has been their downfall across all formats, particularly last season.

On paper, they have a strong group of players to choose from – Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks, Mosehle, Omphile Ramela and Nicky van den Bergh – but consistency has often been lacking.

“Our top five are all guys who are naturally positive players,” said Toyana. “The message I want to emphasise with them will be to play in an attacking fashion.

“There was a time in T20 cricket where scores of 130 to 140 would win you the game, but not so anymore. Teams are chasing 180 these days.”

The team they will face in their opening match of the RamSlam on Sunday certainly fit into that category.

The defending champions the Titans will be able to call upon Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers and Aiden Markram from among a host of prodigious batting talent that will certainly test the Lions’ major strength – their bowling.

All-rounder Dwaine Pretorius needs to contribute with bat and ball if the Lions are to push for the title. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Rabada leads an attack that includes Hardus Viljoen, Beuran Hendricks, Phangiso, fellow left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin and the all-rounders Mulder and Pretorius.

“I’m very excited about our bowling. In the past year or so, we have not had the kind of options that will be available to us in this competition, so I’m very much looking forward to that.”

Mulder and Pretorius are two key individuals, given the balance they will lend to the starting team.

“Both of them can bat in the top five, they are clean hitters and of course are front-line bowlers, so we can play up to six bowlers if we want. Given their international experience, I expect both of them to make a play for us throughout the competition.”

Toyana will once again throw some lesser known players an opportunity – the trio of 21-year-olds include former SA Under-19 wicket-keeper Ryan Rickleton – who Toyana said will play a part at some stage in the tournament, and the North West pair, Janneman Malan and Marques Ackerman.

“We don’t want them to hide behind the fact that they are youngsters, but they are talented guys who deserve an opportunity.”


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