Living in a bubble is nothing like we’re used to, says Lions captain Aaron Phangiso
JOHANNESBURG – Living in a ‘bubble’ as the country’s domestic cricketers are finding isn’t so easy particularly when your favourite gastronomic delights aren’t easily available.
While those who’ve played for the Proteas have grown somewhat accustomed to living, training and playing in bio-secure environments, for the local cricketers, it’s all very new, and getting accustomed to it is challenging.
The Lions, Cape Cobras and Warriors are in Potchefstroom, with players, coaches and officials, all locked down in a ‘bio bubble’ for a week to play in the Pool B of the Momentum One-Day Cup.
“It’s tough,” said Lions captain Aaron Phangiso. “This is nothing that we are used to, it’s the first time for all of us. You have to be in your room most of the time. I know a lot of cricketers aren’t used to this, guys like being out and about.”
While the players are happy to clench their teeth and get on with it, aware of the importance of playing cricket having had more than a month off because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are also missing some of life’s luxuries. “The only problem is we can’t get some takeaways here and there.”
The PUK Sports Village where the three teams are staying, is usually used by overseas athletes as an off-season training base. The Spanish World Cup winning football team in 2010, famously stayed there during that tournament, and the hotel caters for the needs of elite athletes, including food.
“You are almost having your healthiest cooked meal ever, which is making guys happy – lots of veggies and that kind of stuff – that’s good, but a lot of guys are used to having a bit of Nandos or something else,” Phangiso remarked.
Players are also restricted to their rooms, with movies and PlayStation the preferred option although the Lions captain said he’d drawn inspiration from a sports documentary. “I watched the Tiger documentary which was awesome, I learned a couple of things.” .
At least the cricket starts on Friday, with Phangiso’s side taking on the Cape Cobras from 10am. The weather is not forecast to play as big a part in the Pool B fixtures as was the case for Pool A where just two matches were completed, but Phangiso said that abandoned matches was something the players were acutely aware of, and that it highlighted the importance of hitting the ground running.
“We want to be ruthless. There were times last season when we took the safe route in terms of chasing bonus points and that is something I want to change, I want us to be more positive in those situations. Potential bad weather means it's important to go after bonus points.”
The pitch at Senwes Park also surprised Phangiso. It was apparent in both of the Pool A matches, how slow the pace of the surface was and the assistance it provided for the spinners. “The ball usually comes through nicely on the Potch wicket, but that didn’t happen so that is something we must adjust to. We have good enough players to deliver in those kinds of conditions, the senior players have all played big cricket.”
He and fellow left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin will be crucial, but the experience of seam bowlers, who’d grown up playing on pitches that were slow and low would also be important for the Lions.
“I played in PE for the Giants in MSL, Malusi (Siboto) played in Cape Town, Sisanda Magala is from PE... we have guys who are familiar with the conditions. Magala has given us some tips. He’s going to be a big weapon for us,” Phangiso said of the 30 year old all-rounder who moved up to Johannesburg during the last off-season.
Pool B Squads
Lions: Aaron Phangiso (capt), Bjorn Fortuin, Delano Potgiter, Dominic Hendricks, Eldred Hawken, Johannes Diseko, Kagiso Rapulana, Malusi Siboto, Mitchel van Buuren, Nicholas van den Bergh, Reeza Hendricks, Ryan Rickelton, Sisanda Magala, Tladi Bokako, Wesley Marshall, Nono Pongolo.
Cape Cobras: Zubayr Hamza (capt), Aviwe Mgijima, Benjamin Ward, Christiaan Jonker, Corbin Bosch, Imraan Manack, Janneman Malan, Jason Smith, Jean du Plessis, Jonathan Bird, Nandre Burger, Onke Nyaku, Pieter Malan, Siyabonga Mahima, Tony De Zorzi, Ziyaad Abrahams.
Warriors: Yaseen Vallie (capt), Lesiba Ngoepe, Jon-Jon Smuts, Rudi Second, Wihan Lubbe, Sinethemba Qeshile, Marco Marais, Ayabulela Gqamane, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Glenton Stuurman, Basheer Walters, Matthew Breetzke, Jade de Klerk, Tiaan van Vuuren, Sithembile Langa, Stefan Tait.