Where there’s a Wills With Cobras the best in the world, there’s plenty to be happy about at Newlands
SO we now have our very own gleaming, steaming Mean Machine in Cape Town.
The Cobras have all three domestic trophies in the Newlands cabinet and rule the local cricket scene in a way not seen since Clive Rice and die ou Transvaal in the 1980s.
What a team that was, by the way, with Rice, Graeme Pollock, Jimmy Cook, Ray Jennings, Vince van der Bijl, Henry Fotheringham, Sylvester Clarke, Alvin Kallicharan and others taking five consecutive Currie Cups and seven out of eight Nissan Shields to the Wanderers.
Right now, at full-strength, the Cobras are probably the strongest provincial outfit in world cricket over anything but T20 where big money globalisation produces glittering but transitory squads everywhere – even in impoverished Zimbabwe where Chris Gayle, Shaun Tait and sundry other mercenaries popped up in recent weeks playing for things called the Tuskers, The Moun- taineers and The Rocks.
Credit for the Cobras’ success must go where it is rarely given, to the administrators, who controversially moved on the reasonably successful Shukri Conrad from the coaching position and replaced him with Richard Pybus who has got the squad firing on every cylinder.
Praise is also due to Justin Kemp who seems a calm captain and is experienced enough to claim respect from the international superstars on their occasional visits to the squad.
And the decision to import Owais Shah proved inspired – he’s probably the best foreign player for this franchise since the imperious West Indian Desmond Haynes in the mid-1990s.
The racial mix in the squad is also encouraging with exactly half being categorised as previously disadvantaged, even if one of them did go to Bishops!
Not that all is perfect at Newlands.
The squad is over-stuffed. The purchase of the veteran Mark Boucher mystified most and I’m also not sure of the value of the pricey Dale Steyn at this level, other than to occasionally get in the way of a local prospect.
The age balance is a slight concern with eight players born in the 1970s, and therefore able to remember Clive Rice’s legendary side, and only three born in the 1990s who don’t even know what the Transvaal was.
The pitch is also not quite right. The test (21/9 and all that) was hectic and as a limited- overs’ track it’s still slightly sluggish.
And whatever happened to that Royals thing? Does anyone else remember how Cobras CEO Andre Odendaal, back in 2009, trumpeted some curious global partnership with Hampshire, Rajasthan and Trinidad which involved, and I quote, “a cultural and commercial fit with the Royals ethos”?
Thankfully that nonsense seems to have died a quiet death.
But it’s really not a time to quibble about the Cobras.
The domestic game is perpetually in danger of drowning in difficult cross currents of changing formats, shifting loyalties, shortening attention spans, excessive TV coverage, national maladministration and swirling Indian money, but Newlands these days sees lots of successful, vibrant cricket often played in front of healthy crowds.
We can’t ask for more than that.