If there is one team in the inaugural T20 Global League that will be blessed with the renowned “Madiba Magic”, then it is sure to be the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars.
The Port Elizabeth-based franchise, owned by Dubai-based businessman Ajay Sethi, made the biggest statement yet in the newly-found league with the unveiling of its team name, bearing the legendary name of South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.
“We wanted a team that would be founded with the same values that guided Madiba,” Sethi said on Wednesday.
“My thanks to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality for embracing us with such generosity. For us, this team is about being a big part of the Nelson Mandela Bay community and the Eastern Cape for years to come. We want the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars to be the People’s Team.”
The Stars have certainly called on some of Eastern Cape cricket’s finest products to guide the franchise in this maiden T20 Global League season.
Proteas legend Mark Boucher, who hails from the Border region, has moved back from the Centurion-based Titans to be the head coach for the duration of the tournament, and will be assisted by local Warriors coach Malibongwe Maketa.
Boucher’s legendary Proteas teammate Makhaya Ntini, a proud son of Mdingi, has been named an ambassador for the team, along with former Eastern Province legend Graeme Pollock.
The only foreign import on the coaching staff is current Zimbabwe national coach Heath Streak, who will fill the role of bowling coach.
Boucher will be able to add some further Eastern Cape flavour to his team at the T20 Global League draft on Sunday, with former Warriors stalwart Colin Ingram among the players listed.
Ingram, who is ineligible for Proteas selection due to his contract with Glamorgan in the English County Championship, is one of 10 Kolpak players listed on the draft.
The former Proteas left-hander has been a hit at the Welsh county, especially in England’s T20 Blast competition, where he has struck two centuries already.
This prolific form has already earned the 32-year-old a contract with the Adelaide Strikers in Australia’s Big Bash competition.
Ingram, though, is not the only possible coup for Boucher and the Stars. Twenty20 icons Alex Hales and Shahid Afridi are among 90 foreign players short-listed.
The pair will join eight foreign marquee players who will also be assigned individually to the eight participating franchises on August 26 and 27.
Those players, who were named in April, are Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard (all West Indies), Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka), Brendon McCullum (New Zealand), Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy (all England).
Other world stars that have made the final cut are Steven Finn (England), Ahmed Shehzad (Pakistan), Ben Hilfenhaus (Australia), and Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan), with 13 countries in total, including South Africa, represented on the list.
“The Player Draft is a major step forward for the T20 Global League and the anticipation among players, coaches and owners is now clearly visible,” CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said.
“The huge interest from players around the world has been phenomenal, and the calibre of players in the draft will make squad selections one for the fans to follow.”