Cape Town – Zubayr Hamza set the domestic T20 competition alight with some wonderful strokeplay, and he is hoping to continue in that vein for Western Province in the 4-Day Series that starts on Friday.
Right-hander Hamza was named as the WP captain on Thursday by coach Salieg Nackerdien, with fellow Proteas batter Kyle Verreynne appointed as the vice-captain.
It’s not a new role for Hamza, who led the Cape Cobras in the same competition last season, but it does feel like a fresh start for him and the team as they are formally now Western Province in the red-ball competition, with a new mentor in Nackerdien having arrived a few weeks ago as well.
The 26-year-old was the third-leading run-scorer in the recent provincial T20 competition with 187, where he also produced a thrilling hundred.
He has five Proteas Test caps to his name, and would dearly love to add to that tally later this summer, when South Africa host India in a three-match series, starting on December 17 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
But for Hamza to be part of that group, he needs to produce the goods for Province, starting with today’s clash against the Dolphins, the defending champions, at Newlands.
“There are aspirations to play at the next level and represent my country again. But at the moment, I haven’t been thinking about that. It’s purely based on the environment here at Western Province, and putting in performances,” the skipper said during a press conference at Newlands on Thursday.
“But more importantly, there is a shared desire to win a trophy, and once we get that sort of team success, more credit gets spread around the team, and we will have more players getting opportunities at the next level.
“It’s a big goal to perform in red-ball cricket this season. That ability to change between formats is really something I’ve been working on, and it’s more so the game plan and thought processes than the ability to do so.”
Hamza feels that he has grown as a player and leader over the last year or so, which saw him take charge of the Cobras in the four-day and one-day arenas, but playing under the captaincy of first Tony de Zorzi and most recently Wayne Parnell for WP in the T20 format.
New coach Nackerdien has opted to give the responsibility back to Hamza in the longer format of the game, and it is something the top-order batter is embracing.
“I feel like I have knocked my head against the wall enough times to learn that lesson,” Hamza said.
“Those lessons I’m referring to is worrying too much in terms of other people’s individual performance. Yes, taking care of the team environment, making sure that everyone’s cohesive and working together as a team.
“But then also having the ability to make the switch by the time I have to go bat. As soon as I walk over that line, I’ve got to be slightly selfish – I’m not going to lie about it – that’s the time I need to perform as well.
“Yes, there are situations where you gel and mend your personal performance with the needs of the team. I feel like I’ve played a slightly less narrowed… not a narrowed enough focus on my individual performances last year. Towards the back-end of the season, it kind of clicked, and I started performing again.”
It is somewhat of a dream come true for Nackerdien to be the WP head coach, having operated as a Cobras assistant and at the Province semi-professional level before, and at the Proteas Women’s team.
But he is well aware that sentiment won’t produce victories, and he is determined to get the best out of his squad this season.
“I can’t really say how happy I am to be sitting here in this position. It’s been a long time – it’s been 22 years!” Nackerdien said on Thursday.
“But they say there always comes a time when maybe it’s your time, and I feel maybe this is the right time for me now to take this opportunity and really enjoy it.
“I said to the people – it’s maybe three years, and it could be longer, it depends on how we are going to go about our campaigns over the years – but I would really just want to enjoy it. Bad or good, whatever criticism that is going to come our way, we need to handle it properly, and have a good balance in our team.
“And really win some trophies for this province again. The brand of cricket is to express themselves and not to fear anything. I want them to go out there, when they prepare properly, to express themselves and enjoy it.”