Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince looks to draw inspiration from Sir Alex Ferguson by restoring former glories at Newlands through the promotion of youthful players and building a winning ethos, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
The Cobras were not far from having a successful season in 2017-18. They finished third in the Sunfoil Series and reached the semi-final in both the One-Day Cup and the T20 Challenge. Prince’s first stint as coach saw the former Protea place his trust in youthful exuberance in order to rejuvenate the hunger to win in a well-balanced team structure.
The Cobras have gone trophyless for three seasons. The four-day title was last won back in 2013-14, while they shared the 50-over honours for successive seasons between 2012 through to 2014. The T20 Challenge was the last silverware to adorn the Newlands trophy cabinet back in 2014-15.
But as confirmed by Prince, this is nowhere near acceptable for a team that is accustomed to being the dominant force in South African domestic cricket.
‘It is about restoring the Cobras to what they were a few years ago,’ Prince told SACricketmag.com. ‘That’s my job, the people from the Cape have a history of expectation and winning. Go back 10 years ago when I played here, and that’s why some of our young players are stepping up because there is a history of success here.
‘Maybe sometimes there is more expectation here than other places in the country, but like Alex Ferguson said about Man United – and I am a Liverpool fan so it hurts me to say that – but he basically said that to play for Man United, and you don’t have the belief, and conviction in your ability, you don’t deserve to play for Man United. In respect to other teams, the Cobras have high standards and you have to deliver the goods.’
When asked about whether, like Ferguson’s 1998-99 side, the treble is on his mind, Prince answered bullishly.
‘One step at a time. Last year we made the semi-finals. Obviously, the next step is the final, and once we get there we obviously want to win it. We are looking to improve on last year and I do believe we have the squad to do so.’
Promoting youth was vitally important during Manchester United’s most successful periods and equally, Prince has not shied away from trusting young players. But what does Prince look for in a young aspiring cricketer?
‘I think we look at character first and foremost. For me, that is the biggest thing in terms of our recruitment,’ added Prince. ‘That is our biggest thing, are guys up for the fight? I think cricket is the type of game, a very complex sport, there are good and bad days, and you can have people who seek out the nice opportunities to perform, or you can have people who regardless of the conditions, are up for the fight. It is about creating champion people regardless of the situation.’
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