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Top 3 need to keep their eye on the ball

As the green and gold colours of the Proteas' limited-overs side are put into the memory banks for a month or two, it is the local scene that comes to the fore with the climax of the domestic Twenty20 competition.

In an ideal world, the qualifier and final would have been scheduled for a time when nothing else was going on anywhere in the cricketing world so that focus for all could be solely on the end of the domestic T20 finale. As it happens, the qualifiers are to take place on the day that the Indian Premier League (IPL) commences and so there is a little competition for attention.

While there may be many of the opinion that there is not a whole lot of interest in the IPL outside the borders of India, I would like to point out that the greatest beneficiaries from that Indian tournament are the players themselves. So, there is a huge amount of interest from players worldwide as they pine for the salaries that some of their colleagues earn and wish that they too could get a call-up for a sizeable pay cheque. At first it was a quietly spoken about thing but these days, with the IPL beginning its sixth edition, not many are shy to express their wishes for a windfall that would be impossible to turn the nose up at.

All that being said, it is important that the domestic teams that remain in the final stages of the RAM SLAM T20 competition keep their eye on the ball and are not worrying about what happens half way across the world. The first reason is so that they can perform at their best without distraction and thus do justice to their talents. but the second is so they might give themselves the chance to earn that sought-after call-up from one of the franchises in India.

Each season there are players that get injured and have to be replaced, so playing the qualifier at this late time in the season, and right at the beginning of the IPL, means that the South African domestic players are in the groove and perhaps in form as they are just coming off a season of cricket. This is something that coaches are keen on and so would rather pick a player fresh from competition than one who has been in the gym, the nets or even the couch for a month or so as his season was over a little while ago.

The Highveld Lions earned their right to go straight into the final domestically and into the Champions’ League T20 competition later in the year, but will be the ones who have to desperately try to keep momentum going as they get a nine-day break between their last round-robin match and the final.

By the time that they take the field at the Wanderers for the RAM SLAM T20 Final, young players such as Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock and the likes will have watched a couple of IPL games before the final. While there is nothing at all wrong with that, the Lions’ coaching staff have to ensure that their players are still in Johannesburg mentally and have not drifted off to Chennai or Hyderabad.

For the other two teams, the Warriors and Titans, all is still very much to play for and so the chances of them taking their eye off the ball are slimmer. The first port of call is to get into the final and it is rather difficult to call who will meet the Lions at the Bullring on the 7th of April. Anything can happen in a knockout match.

It sure is a worthy prize to play for though, so let us hope it will have the players going all out on the night.

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