Imperial Lions coach Wandile Gwavu is thrilled at the prospect of returning to cricket next month, saying his team are as hungry as ever to emulate their successes from the past two seasons.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Friday that the 2020/21 campaign will launch on Monday, November 2, with the 4-Day Franchise Series.
This after months of nervousness that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowly been easing following tough lockdown restrictions that had been imposed by government.
Now, with things improving, the fixtures for the new term have formally been released and the focus is back to matters on the pitch again. “I’m very excited,” Gwavu stated. “Of course, being locked up in our houses has not been easy. There’s a lot that’s happened this year, so we’re very excited to be going back to what we all love to do.”
The Lions, who are double defending champions in the first-class competition, returned to training nearly four months ago and the way things worked out were not too bad according to the coach. “It’s been roughly 15 weeks since we returned, but of course under the regulations,” Gwavu explained. “We’ve had a lot of one-on-ones, which I actually think has been very beneficial.
“We usually don’t get that, so being able to spend time individually with our players has been a blessing in disguise. Now we’re doing things as a group again so we are just happy that there’s now a timeframe and dates to look forward to.”
The way the fixtures are structured means that red-ball cricket will be the centre of attention between now and the end of the year. The format of the competition has also changed with the six teams divided into two groups, with each side playing seven matches, before the top two qualify for a five-day final.
Gwavu continued: “It’s something new and we can’t complain about it. I think CSA were honest enough to come out and say early that we were playing fewer matches this year. It’s not always ideal because we want to play more cricket because that’s how guys learn.
“But we’ve made peace with that decision and we’re now going ahead and looking at how we’re going to execute plans against the teams we will face. In all honesty, nothing much has changed.
“We’re playing against the same teams; we’re still prepared to try our best to dominate South African cricket in all competitions and we want to do that by playing a good brand of cricket.
“The status quo remains: the Lions are still hungry for success.”
Gwavu is also taking charge of the Lions officially as head coach for the first time after serving in an interim post last year following the departure of Enoch Nkwe to the Proteas.
“It’s official on paper but that’s how I did treat it last season,” he added. “I was a permanent member of the team, so all that has changed is the shift from interim team coach to permanent head coach.
“From my side it is exciting that I’ve been given the faith by the company to run one of South Africa’s biggest franchises, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of years with the Lions.”