CAPE TOWN - For many the Cape Cobras’ next two matches are season-defining.
A lot of that, of course, stems from the fact the Newlands trophy cabinet has been bare for the past four seasons. Considering there was a glowing period from 2009 until 2014 where it was almost over-flowing, the people down at Campground Road are starting to become itchy for some silverware.
Cobras coach Ashwell Prince is not one of them though. In fact, Prince who is in his first full season in charge of the Cobras, believes Wednesday's One-Day Cup semi-final may even be ahead of schedule.
Since taking over after a dressing-room ruckus that split the Cobras camp straight down the middle, the former Proteas Test batsman has not been afraid to let a few senior players depart Newlands. Out went former captains Omphile Ramela and Dane Vilas, while Kolpak players have also only been used sparingly.
In came a group of young talents, interspersed with a few who have honed their games at semi-pro level, and the results have been outstanding.
Unlike in previous years where it was the experience of Justin Ontong, Justin Kemp, Andrew Puttick and Robin Peterson who did the business for the Cobras, the team is now relying on the energy and exuberance of a group of “20-somethings” like Pieter Malan, George Linde, Zubayr Hamza, Kyle Verreynne, Simon Khomari, Mthiwekhaya Nabe and Dayyaan Galiem for meaningful contributions.
Along with the guidance of stalwarts such as JP Duminy, Rory Kleinveldt and Dane Paterson, the Cobras now find themselves in a home One-Day Cup semi-final against the Dolphins (1.30pm start).
“The whole conversation is about these young players fulfilling their potential. It goes beyond winning trophies but to be honest, I look at a young bunch of players that are capable of anything,” Prince said.
“No team has won more matches (in the round-robin phase) than us. The Titans did achieve two bonus points more, but won the same amount of games.
“The young players are getting opportunities to express themselves and they know that that opportunity comes with a responsibility to perform.”
Captain Duminy has been called up to the Proteas one-day international squad for the series against India, which rules him out of the playoffs for the Cobras. Kleinveldt has been handed the skipper’s armband for the semi, but that’s only one part of three roles that Duminy normally fulfils.
“JP is not just the captain, but a batsman and bowler too. But that’s what you prepare players for - to be ready for these types of situations. It is no doubt going to be an interesting week with tough choices to be made, but any player wants to be involved at this stage,” Prince said.
The Dolphins will also be without their regular captain Khaya Zondo after the middle-order batsman received a surprise call-up to the national team. Imran Tahir will join Zondo at the Proteas, although the East Coast team will have spinner Keshav Maharaj back in their ranks for the semi.