Cape Town - The latest edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is fast approaching and the more than 20 South Africans who are on the books for the various teams will once again be eager to test their skills against some of the best players in the world.
The IPL starts on April 3 when the Kolkata Knight Riders, with Ryan McLaren and Jacques Kallis in their ranks, take on the Delhi Daredevils, Johan Botha, Roelof van der Merwe, Gulam Bodi and Morne Morkel’s team.
The 76-match tournament ends with the final on May 26 in Kolkata but much of the early interest will focus on bizhub Highveld Lions’ all-rounder Chris Morris, who was signed for an impressive $625 000 by the Chennai Super Kings.
Morris was hardly known outside South Africa before his big-money signing and he will be feeling the pressure that comes with his hefty price-tag but he will be under the mentorship of coach Stephen Fleming, one of the most astute men in cricket, which can only benefit Morris.
The vagaries of the competition means that only four foreigners can play at any one team which means that more than one South African might find themselves doing little more than dragging themselves around India attending net sessions in various cities.
Highveld Lions’ wunderkind Quinton de Kock will hope that he does not fall into that category.
The 20-year-old De Kock has been one of the stars of South Africa’s RAM SLAM T20 Challenge tournament this year with his record-breaking innings of 126 against the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras being a stand-out moment.
The wicketkeeper/batsman was picked up for just $20 000 by the Sunrisers Hyderabad, a new franchise this year, but he will have his work cut out forcing his way into a team which has the likes of Dale Steyn, JP Duminy (if fit), Australia’s Clint McKay and Cameron White, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and West Indian Darren Sammy to choose from.
AB de Villiers will be plying his trade with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and he is one of the South Africans who have made a real impact in IPL cricket, few will forget the astonishing 23 runs he hammered off a Steyn over in Bangalore last year.
De Villiers seems tailor made for IPL cricket and his inventive batting could well see him end as one of the tournament’s leading run-scorers.
One benefit of this year’s IPL is that it will provide valuable match practice for a number of South Africans who will come into contention for the Proteas squad which will compete in the 50-over ICC Champions Trophy, which starts in England in June.
One player who could well further his claims for a recall to the Proteas squad is all-rounder Albie Morkel. Morkel seems to have become something of a forgotten man with regards to national selection but the Proteas are still casting around for a finisher.
Morkel has shown during the RAM SLAM T20 that he is still capable of some fearsome hitting late in an innings and he is a key part of the Chennai Super Kings’ squad. He is often entrusted with the new ball despite a feeling that his bowling is not quite up to international standard.