Cape Cobras batsman Zubayr Hamza has expressed his satisfaction over the availability of the Proteas for the start of the domestic season, saying it will have a massively positive impact on everyone.
All the national players, bar those that are away playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), are set to play in at least the opening two rounds of the 4-Day Franchise Series that starts on November 2.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) formally launched the 2020/21 campaign on Thursday amidst plenty of excitement and hype over a return to play following more than seven months of no play that was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
First-class cricket will be the centre of attraction domestically for the rest of the year, while World Champions England were confirmed to arrive for a white-ball tour – that will include a Betway One-Day International Series presented by Momentum and KFC T20 International sequence – that runs from late November to early December.
Before that gets going, South Africa’s internationals are all set to face-off in the four-day game, which has excited Hamza.
“Having the Proteas available will be good for everyone, whether it’s the guy making his debut, for the guy who has been playing just franchise cricket for many years, it’s just going to benefit everyone,” he said. “The competitiveness will be high, I have no doubt about that, and having the regular Proteas will definitely strengthen all the teams and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hamza, who was named new captain of the Cobras during the off-season, says the dawn of the new season is a real positive for everyone.
“It’s been good to get out in the past two weeks, getting accustomed to playing on turf wickets again,” he explained. “The intensity has been great at training and in the nets.
“I’m sure every cricketer around the country is just waiting to be cut loose. All those competitive juices have been canned up for quite some time.
“We’ve all just been sitting and waiting for something to happen. When the fixtures came out it was not just excitement, but more of relief that we can now get stuck into our work after that long wait and get the ball rolling again.”
There is a new format for the new four-day season, with the six franchises separated into two groups and the schedule cut from 10 games to seven, with a final set to be played by the two top teams at the back end of the campaign.
Hamza admits he is unsure how to view the changes, saying: “I understand the changes that have been made, but personally I want to see us play as much cricket as possible. I’m not sure how this will turn out, playing three teams once.
“It will mean that every game is going to count more and perhaps it will up the competition in terms of playing competitive games and looking for results in each and every round.
“Hopefully it will spark more exciting cricket in the four-day comp just because you have to be on top from the start.”
Looking at his new role in the team, the 25-year-old, capped five times by his country, said he was looking forward to it.
“It was a proud moment because I’ve been obviously playing here in the Cape all my career,” Hamza added. “We’ve had a few tough years when we came close to winning titles, but it just never happened.
“Hopefully I can draw on those experiences, and along with a few of the other experienced players with leadership qualities in the squad, we’ll be able to take that extra step now this season.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m grateful to be chosen to captain the Cobras.”