Cape Town — Stephen Fleming was a fierce adversary of Graeme Smith’s during their playing days.
In fact, the former Black Caps captain played a major role in Smith’s evolution from wet-behind-the-ears rookie captain back in 2003 to his eventual all-powerful position as Proteas skipper.
And now Fleming, by virtue of his position as head coach the Joburg Super Kings, once again has to play a pivotal role in Smith’s career — this time as the Commissioner of the new SA20 League.
The JSK, a subsidiary of the all powerful Indian Premier League franchise Chennai Super Kings, is a major player at the table and the success of the league does weigh heavily on how the Wanderers-based team performs in the inaugural season.
To ensure that JSK do start on the right foot next January, Fleming has roped in another former Proteas captain and long-time friend Faf du Plessis to steer the Lions ship on the playing field.
But they are both back in the famed yellow with Du Plessis’ local knowledge playing a big part in the compilation of the JSK squad at the auction on Monday.
“Faf is currently in the West Indies, but we were able to squeeze some quality time with him, which was good. He was very influential in the auction,” Fleming told the media.
“His influence is going to be strong and leadership is important in franchise cricket. So to have a local, respected captain, and who has had a good period of time at the top, we see it as very valuable.”
Alongside a promising group of overseas internationals that includes Maheesh Theekshana (Sri Lanka), Romario Shepherd and Alzarri Joseph (both West Indies), George Garton, Harry Brooke, Lewis Gregory and Leus du Plooy (all England), the JSK have invested heavily in local players that are suited to the pace and bouncy conditions of the Wanderers.
Reeza Hendricks and Malusi Sibuto both play their domestic cricket at the Bullring, while Janneman Malan, Donovan Ferreira and Caleb Saleka all played their formative cricket on the Highveld.
“I’m under no illusion over how tough this competition is going to be so the beauty about this tournament is that it’s going to be driven by local players with a sprinkling of internationals. And that’s important to acknowledge the development and the opportunity to perform as a local player is high and needed,” Fleming said.
“If you’re going to win, local players will help put you in that position and the international stars will add flavour to it. It’s tough to win and it’ll be great to do so.”
The Super Kings commitment to getting the best available South African talent available was made clear when they won an intense bidding war for the unheralded Ferreira. The young Titans all-rounder did not even have a domestic franchise contract 18 months ago, but is now in possession of a R5.5-million deal with the Super Kings.
“I know he made my heart beat, I thought he was going to be a nice and easy buy. He is an exciting option,” said Fleming of Ferreira’s purchase.
“The research shows that he is still relatively young, explosive and talented. We’re looking at him to keep (wicket) a little bit as well, so he is very versatile. It was really important and a key position for us that we needed.
“One of the challenges you get when you get to the end is how much you set aside, sometimes you’re under budget and sometimes you’re over budget. And you look a bit silly when you got some money left.
“The first hour was pretty feral and the first few names we jotted down were blown out of the water so that sort of sets you back, and you start wondering how much you’re spending at the front end because you still need to get some good players towards the end.
“We spoke about the last throws of the dice and it was really important that we got him. So it was a good play from us,” the New Zealander added.