Captain Ingram wants 'more unified' Warriors
Sharpening the Warriors' "competitive edge" is what Colin Ingram has identified as his main task when he takes over the captaincy full-time from Thursday. The franchise finished in the bottom half of the table in all three formats last summer and last won a trophy in 2009-10, which has fixed Ingram's focus on leading a resurgence this season.
"We've been honest about it and we have to do a revamp because the trophy cabinet is not exactly full and hasn't been for a while," Ingram told ESPNcricinfo. "We tend to play good cricket in small patches and this season we need to improve. You're going to see a much more unified Warriors team with a lot more direction this summer."
The Warriors won just two out of 10 first-class matches last summer, three out 10 one-day games and only four of their 10 Twenty20 clashes to meander through a mediocre 2013-14. They struggled to bowl teams out, were hit by injuries to former captain Davy Jacobs and seamer Rusty Theron and were over-reliant on the experience of Ashwell Prince in the batting line-up.
Jacobs has been relieved of the leadership, Theron is fully fit and Prince has retired, which leaves the onus on the likes of David White, Colin Ackermann, Solo Nqweni and Thandolwethu Mnyaka to step up. "We've got quite a new bunch of players and that suits my captaincy style," Ingram said. "We don't have a lot of superstars and even though its nice to have big names, I believe everybody must contribute and this will be a good test to see how they respond to that."
Of the Warriors squad, only Wayne Parnell is nationally contracted and with the amount of ODI cricket South Africa will play in the lead-up to the World Cup, he is unlikely to feature much for the Warriors. Instead, the franchise will look to produce its own internationals, much like the Dolphins have done over the past two seasons with both Kyle Abbott and Mthokozisi Shezi receiving South African call-ups.
The candidates for higher honours at the Warriors include offspinner Simon Harmer, who finished last season second on the list of wicket-takers behind Dane Piedt, opening batsman David White and Ingram himself, who last played for South Africa in November 2013. Ingram was the first South African to score a century on ODI debut but could not sustain his strong start. He spent significant chunks of time out of the XI and when he was used, it was often out of position.
He is a regular No.4 but when he last played for South Africa he was used as an opener. His last four innings produced scores of 0, 0, 0 and 4 before he was dropped, which seemed the inevitable consequence of not having a defined role. "Those last few games were disappointing for me because I didn't perform, not so much because I was moving around the order but because I wasn't doing well," Ingram said.
Any doubt in his own ability to score runs would have faded in the 10 months since then. Batting in his usual position, Ingram scored 427 runs at 61.00 including century and three fifties in seven matches in the first-class competition last season and 395 runs at 65.83 including four fifties in the one-day cup. He was the Warriors' most successful fifty-over batsmen in that campaign. Over the winter, he spent time at Somerset where he played seven Royal London One-Day Cup games and was the county's third-highest run-scorer overall with 298 runs at 42.57.
But does he think those numbers are enough to earn him a recall to a South African squad that is starting to look too settled to break into? "I always think I will give myself a chance if I have a good season but my focus in on the Warriors and on doing well for them," he said. "As a captain, I've been preaching that we need to up our game so I have to be the first to do it. I'm looking forward to getting going and getting my hands dirty."
As one of the four franchises in South Africa not involved in the Champions League T20, the Warriors season starts with two first-class matches before the one-day cup, followed by three weeks of 50-over cricket and a just over a month of T20. The clearly defined blocs for each format can be unsettling for some but Ingram thinks it can work to the Warriors' advantage.
"It will be good for us because we can focus for a couple of games at a time on each format. Because we've done well over small periods of time, it may end up suiting us and help us get that competitive edge back," he said. The people of the Eastern Cape will hope he is right.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent