Ontong: Cobras trying to be a happy team

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Veteran opener Andrew Puttick also lost his dad, while new convenor of selectors Alan Dawson resigned after a few months in the job.

So, you can’t blame Justin Ontong when he says that he regards Saturday’s T20 Challenge opener against the Knights at the Wanderers (1.30pm) “as a new start for us”.

Ontong will captain the Cobras, and comes into the shorter format in great form following his career-best 225 in last week’s draw against the Dolphins in Paarl.

But he is mindful of creating a positive set-up following all the off-field issues over the last few months. “There have obviously been a lot of issues happening off the field, with the coaching, etc. But there are some new guys, new youngsters, that they must deliver their best when they step into this environment, and we just encourage that. Just to be themselves and bring the best version of themselves,” the 36-year-old said after a practice session at Newlands.

“That has been the focus as well, working on our environment and trying to be a happy team – a team that sticks together. That’s really important, especially when the chips are down. If guys start moving in different directions, then it’s going to be quite difficult for a team. We are working very hard on that off the field, in getting the guys together.”

And perhaps the Cobras’ luck has changed a bit. West Indies star Kieron Pollard was told by the West Indies Cricket Board that he cannot travel to South Africa following an administrative dispute about his release, but two days later, the matter was resolved and he was scheduled to join up with the Cobras in Johannesburg on Friday.

Add to that the fact that Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt are back in the mix, and suddenly the Cobras are looking much stronger in the batting and bowling departments. “I take it as a new start for us. We’re desperate to get our first win and just get a bit of momentum going. So hopefully this new tournament will kick-start some momentum for us. We’ve got some new faces in the team who bring new energies, and that’s going to be quite exciting,” Ontong said.

“Also, Kieron Pollard brings a lot of calmness and experience to the squad. So ja, we are ready to go now for Saturday and get back to winning ways. Richard and Rory set the tone with the bat and ball at the start of the game, and those first six overs can more or less tell you where a game is going to go. So they are key players as seniors. And hopefully Kieron brings that little bit extra we need.

“Maybe a concern is Kieron Pollard… I don’t know how much he has played (recently). A couple of new guys trying to make their way, so it’s about finding our feet as quickly as possible.”

Squads For Wanderers

Cape Cobras: Andrew Puttick, Aviwe Mgijima, Beuran Hendricks, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, George Linde, Jason Smith, Kieron Pollard, Justin Ontong (captain), Keegan Petersen, Lizaad Williams, Omphile Ramela, Richard Levi, Rory Kleinveldt, Stiaan van Zyl, Tshepo Moreki, Zubayr Hamza.

Knights: Tumelo Bodibe, Patrick Botha, Pite van Biljon, Marchant de Lange, Dillon du Preez, Patrick Kruger, David Miller, Tshepo Ntuli, Diego Rosier, Rudi Second, Luthando Mnyanda, Lwandiswa Zuma, Shadley van Schalkwyk.

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@ashfakmohamed

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Original source: Ontong: Cobras trying to be a happy team

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