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Where there’s a Wills With Co­bras the best in the world, there’s plenty to be happy about at New­lands

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

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