Cape Town - Nelson Mandela Bay Giants coach Eric Simons has declared his satisfaction with the Mzansi Super League (MSL 2.0) draft that was held in Soweto on Tuesday, saying that all the squads were extremely well balanced for the 2019 competition.
The Port Elizabeth-based franchise chose seasoned franchise veteran Farhaan Behardien first up and followed that by picking Beuran Hendricks and Matthew Breetzke.
They also managed to pick up Onke Nyaku, Ben Dunk of Australia, Grant Thomson, Akhona Mnyaka and Nandre Burger, completing a strong squad of players for the second season of the MSL that kicks off in November.
“We’re very happy with our squad and we feel the draft went very well,” Simons said. “I think all the teams are very well balanced this year.
“There were a few teams last year that had some obvious holes, they had to be tactically clever when the tournament started, but I think this year everyone has learnt from their experience and they’ve blocked all the obvious holes.
“So now it’s really about taking the 16 individuals and building a team out of them and then using them tactically cleverly depending on the conditions and the opposition.”
The Giants already had marquee men Imran Tahir and England World Cup-winner Jason Roy on their books, while they opted to retain Chris Morris, Jon-Jon Smuts, Junior Dala, Heino Kuhn and Marco Marais even before the draft.
Simons, who also coached the Giants last season and will again be assisted by Warriors head coach Rivash Gobind does, however, believe that he could have done with a one or two more left-handed batsmen.
But he admitted that not having that luxury was not a train-smash as the likes of Roy, Behardien and Kuhn were excellent players on both sides of the wicket.
“There’s always something you feel you could have done differently,” he explained. “In a perfect world it would have been great to have had three left-handers and three right-handers. We have just one left-hander, but then the right-handers are guys that can play both sides of the wicket, which sort of balances things up.
“All in all, I think we’ve got 11 solid cricketers in terms of the first team, if I can call it that, and then back-up in each area. Someone who can bat right the way through, someone who can bat at the top of the order, an all-rounder, some seamers, so we’re well covered.
“It’s a long tournament and games come quickly, so the chances of picking up an injury are very possible. It’s then about looking to the rest of the squad for that replacement and I think we have that covered.”
Simons and his team raised a few eyebrows by calling out the name ‘Akhona Mnyaka’ as their 12th round pick.
The 20-year-old fast bowler is a South Africa Under-19 international but has played just two T20s and 10 List A games.
But Simons is backing the Cape Cobras youngster to fire.
“I think these tournaments are really unpredictable in terms of who will come through,” the Giants coach added. “But I certainly believe that he is one that can stand up. I know the role he can play for us and I know what he can do. That’s why we’ve gone with him.”
All MSL games will be played over a five-week period starting on 8 November with the final scheduled to take place on 16 December.
NELSON MANDELA BAY GIANTS:
Imran Tahir, Jason Roy (England), Chris Morris (retained player), Jon-Jon Smuts (retained player), Junior Dala (retained player), Farhaan Behardien, Beuran Hendricks, Matthew Breetzke, Onke Nyaku, Ben Dunk (Australia), Heino Kuhn (retained player), Marco Marais (retained player), Grant Thomson, Akhona Mnyaka, Nandre Burger.