There will be plenty of well-known returnees to Tshwane for the Spartans in the 2019 Mzansi Super League but the most striking selection made at Tuesday’s player draft was that of 17-year-old Waqar Salamkheil.
The left-arm wrist-spinner from Afghanistan pocketed R180 000 after being picked up by the Spartans in the ninth round in what head coach Mark Boucher described as a “brave” decision.
Salamkheil will certainly be an unknown quantity. He’s played just 12 first-class matches, one of which was a Test match – Afghanistan’s inaugural five-day match against Ireland, earlier this year. Besides that, he’s played in only eight T20 matches, seven of which were in the Afghanistan Premier League. Salamkheil played seven games for the Kandahar Knights, claiming 10 wickets, and a video featuring a few of those got the Spartans’ brain trust excited.
“He is a mystery to us as well,” smiled the Spartans assistant coach Mandla Mashimbyi.
“We saw a couple of videos, and we really liked what we saw, he is similar to (Tabraiz) Shamsi; he is going to bamboozle a lot of guys. Hopefully, he can do his job properly. It’s nice to have that mystery factor, we don’t know what he will bring, but no one else knows either.”
Mashimbyi and Boucher both walked away pleased from Tuesday’s draft, stating the lessons from last year had been heeded and applied in the way they went about selecting players this year.
“Our squad this time has got cover for everything,” said Boucher.
There is a fair smattering of homegrown talent, who have intimate knowledge of the surroundings at SuperSport Park, an element Boucher believes will be crucial in this year’s MSL campaign. Nine members of the squad, including Morné Morkel and Roelof van der Merwe, who were drafted on Tuesday, are either still playing their cricket in local South African teams or have been part of teams that have been based in Tshwane.
“It’s massive to have guys who’ve played there before,” said Boucher. “They are comfortable in the surroundings, have good memories and have won a lot of trophies. That will play to our advantage.”
Boucher said the Spartans will be on the lookout for a new captain, with AB de Villiers vacating that role this season. “AB won’t be captain, we’ve discussed that. He’s a fantastic player but he must go out there and play and perform like he’s been performing in the last while.”
“We have a few leadership options, we’ll talk to them and see how they feel. I don’t think AB needs that burden, he’s in that stage of his life where he must enjoy his cricket and that’s probably when he plays his best.”
As with all the squads the Spartans can make an additional “wild card” pick after the domestic Provincial T20 Knockout Challenge that will be played between September 13 and 23.
The second edition of the MSL will start on November 8.
Tshwane Spartans Squad for the 2019 Mzansi Super League
AB de Villiers, Tom Curran, Lungi Ngidi, Theunis de Bruyn, Lutho Sipamla, Tony de Zorzi, Morné Morkel, Heinrich Klaasen, Roelof van der Merwe, Pite van Biljon, Waqar Salamkheil, Dean Elgar, Wiaan Mulder, Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Corbin Bosch.