Zander de Bruyn has been playing cricket for almost as long as teammate Quinton de Kock has been alive, and the Lions’ all-rounder believes the Champions League T20 offers the perfect opportunity for youngsters like De Kock to showcase their talent to the world. By ANT SIMS.
The Lions got their Champions League campaign off to a brilliant start, having beaten both the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings. The Johannesburg side is now on the brink of heading into the next round of the competition.
The Lions have flown somewhat under the radar, and with no real “big name” players in their team, nobody really gave them much of a chance at the start of the tournament. But their home-grown talent is currently outshining that of the teams who were built on bucks.
For Zander de Bruyn – a player who has been playing cricket for almost as long as youngster Quinton de Kock has been alive – there have been few eras which heralded a brighter future for South African cricket.
“I think seeing the South African teams perform so well is a very good sign for South African cricket. When there are guys like Quinton de Kock smashing it everywhere and winning games, it’s a very good thing,” De Bruyn tells The Daily Maverick.
“We have so many talented youngsters here that this tournament is ideal for them to showcase their talent on an international stage – it’s definitely an exciting competition.”
De Kock is by no means an unknown on the domestic circuit, but as a 19-year old, he’s had very little opportunity to get his name out there. De Bruyn believes the Champions League T20 sets the perfect platform for guys like De Kock to do just that.
“For guys who only play provincial cricket, it’s a chance to play against big international stars and it’s almost the closest you’ll get to playing for your country. It’s also really good for the youngsters to get some exposure because there are a few guys who might not make it to the IPL and this is a good stepping stone for them to get their name out there,” De Bruyn says.
De Bruyn has plied his trade between South Africa and England over the last few years, and while he’s perfectly content with the way he’s had to go about his business, he’s equally encouraged by the way the game is evolving and allowing younger players to earn a living out of playing cricket.
“In the last few years there’s been so much more money in cricket and people can make a good living just by playing T20 cricket, where 10 or 20 years ago you had to hold on to hope that you could play for your country to make money,” the 37-year-old explains.
The sport has undoubtedly become more professional, with lucrative tournaments and professional contracts earning those who manage to get them a pretty penny. But above and beyond the money, De Bruyn explains that the work that goes into preparing for a match or playing for a team is much more intense.
“There’s more training involved, a lot more gym work. Guys are getting stronger and bats are getting bigger – the game is definitely evolving,” he says.
The downside to the mushrooming of T20 leagues is that it might detract youngsters and spectators from Test cricket. The frequently trumpeted rhetoric is that the influx of T20 cricket will eventually be the death knell dealt to the traditional game, and De Bruyn admits that the game is on a slippery slope.
“It’s a bit of a two-edged sword. For me personally, I still view Test cricket as the ultimate challenge. That’s where you get tested the most, but some youngsters might disagree because they are growing up where they watch players just hitting big shots and getting paid a lot of money doing that. It’s important for the powers that be to look after the traditions of the game and, of course, Test cricket,” he says.
The Lions are in a good position to go a step further in the competition, and they showed some serious mettle when they managed a thrilling six-wicket win against Chennai on Tuesday – chasing down 159 with three balls still to spare. De Bruyn believes, as the cliché goes, that momentum is the key in the competition.
“I think as a unit we are good because we just want to play together. There are no big stars in the team – we just want to use the home conditions to our advantage.
“We want to keep the momentum going,” he adds. DM
Photo: Indian wicket keeper Dinesh Karthik (L) dives for a unsuccessful catch attempt as South African batsman Zander de Bruyn looks on during the first day's of the second test match between India and South Africa in Calcutta, November 28, 2004. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw