We're representing South Africa - Cobras coach
A confident Cape Cobras team arrived in Bangalore on Saturday evening, ready to take on all-comers despite lacking big names and experience of Indian conditions. The Cobras were the first foreign squad to reach Bangalore for the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 starting October 8, reaching their hotel around 6.30pm, and were greeted by members of the local organising committee and a large media contingent.
Andrew Puttick, who replaced the injured Graeme Smith as captain just two days before the team's departure, was satisfied with the Cobras' readiness for the lucrative tournament. "Our season started two weeks ago, we started off with the first-class competition so we've been playing four-day cricket," he said. "We haven't prepared as much as we would have liked to for Twenty20 cricket but we're ready to get it all in order."
The Cobras only have five days before they start their campaign against hosts and IPL runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore, but Puttick felt two warm-up games would be enough preparation. Shukri Conrad, the coach, said it was a mindset change and not much more. "The guys played enough cricket and watched enough cricket so we know what to expect; now it's about putting it to the test. I think everyone is up for it."
The Cobras are without Smith and that means a lot of the focus will be on Herschelle Gibbs and JP Duminy. Puttick acknowledged their roles but also said the likes of Justin Ontong, Charl Langevelt, Monde Zondeki and Rory Kleinveldt, all of whom have played either for South Africa or the A team would also make an impact. "Yes I do think they [Gibbs and Duminy] will play important roles. They've played international cricket and the IPL which helped," he said, "We have a nicely balanced side; we have good players around those two. We've got guys who have been playing well and who can perform."
There is a school of thought leading into the tournament that believes that teams such as the Cobras, who play together all season and have had time to gel have an advantage over IPL teams that have to quickly get together and try and perform well. In this area, Puttick felt the Cobras did score over other teams. "We know each other well and we've been preparing for the season together so it is an advantage," he said. "Not all of us have played in India so we have to adapt quickly but we've also got that unknown quantity. We've got players who haven't been on the world stage so that could be to our advantage."
Stepping up from the domestic Pro20 competition to an international event with stronger teams is indeed a challenge, but Puttick felt his squad was ready for it. "Not much changes as far as the cricket goes, but the pressure is going to be a lot higher," he said. "We'll have to stay calm and take it normally, just focusing on the basics and believing that we deserve to be here and compete. The massive cash incentive is an added bonus but at the end of the day you've got to focus on doing well; then the money will take care of itself."
Conrad was quick to point out how the Cobras were here as ambassadors of South African cricket, and that they would face opposition feeling like the national team. "We see ourselves as representative of the Western Cape and of South Africa," he said. "There's a lot of interest in our performances from folks back home and now more so after South Africa went out of the Champions Trophy. We are definitely here to play, as are the Eagles, as South Africans. Hopefully we can put up a good fight."
On the opening day of the tournament, the Cobras will play Bangalore, followed by a match against New Zealand domestic champions Otago Volts on October 10.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo