CAPE TOWN - Eric Simons is elated that the ownership of the newly-named Stellenbosch Kings has been sorted out before the start of the T20 Global League, but now faces an anxious wait over player availability.
The former Proteas coach, who is head coach Stephen Fleming’s assistant, has been actively involved in the formulation of the franchise in its current embryo state.
With the Stellenbosch team being ownerless before Bollywood superstar Preity Zinta purchased the franchise this week, Simons has worked closely with Cricket South Africa’s operational staff to ensure that the team would be ready for their opening game against the Joburg Giants on 4 November.
He was particularly busy at the inaugural player draft due to Fleming also not being able to attend, as the former Black Caps captain was still back home on holiday.
Although the Stellenbosch side pulled the short straw in terms of only having the last pick in the international marquee draft with Sri Lankan seamer Lasith Malinga heading to Boland Park, the Kings completed some shrewd business the following day in the full draft.
Besides investing in home-grown heroes like Justin Ontong and Henry Davids, the Winelands team also managed to land two massive overseas signings in the form of England’s opening batsman Alex Hales and Pakistan all-rounder Imad Wasim.
Hales has been in sensational form in all formats of the game at domestic level recently, and the possibility of a recall to Test cricket for the Ashes tour to Australia at the end of the year seems a distinct possibility. This would, of course, then rule Hales out of the inaugural T20 Global League.
“We’ll definitely be watching that Ashes squad selection with a great deal of interest,” Simons said. “Time will tell whether we will have Alex. We were very excited to get him in our first draft.”
The situation surrounding Wasim’s participation is less clear. The all-rounder is the No 1 ranked T20 bowler and has been earmarked to play a major role in the Kings’ overall strategy, as the Pakistani left-arm spinner often bowls in the powerplay overs and at the death. There is, however, uncertainty that Wasim will be allowed to participate in the T20 Global League due to the Pakistan Cricket Board re-scheduling their own T20 competition over the same time period.
At this stage CSA remain confident that the Pakistan players purchased in the draft will be available for the tournament, but Simons is understandably concerned about whether they will be allowed to replace the duo should the need arise.
“It was one of our first questions because those are two important components for us as they (Hales and Wasim) were our first two picks. Cricket South Africa seems pretty confident that it will work,” Simons said
“Obviously there is a lot of focus on the World XI (currently playing a T20 series against Pakistan in Lahore) right now and what’s going on there, but I think there is a sense of co-operation among all the countries that it will be fine.
"We don’t have absolute clarity at this stage yet. The talk around injuries was that if you have an injury within the tournament you have to stay in the draft. But this is a unique situation.
“They are both high-profile players. I think the circumstances are very different. Maybe they will let us go outside of the draft and see who is available. I think they will cross that bridge when the problem arises and hopefully the problem won’t arise.”