Franchises will now be required to field at least five players of colour in all competitions, two of whom must be Black Africans, an increase of one for 2014/15.
The Titans have only contracted three Black Africans – pacemen Junior Dala and Ethy Mbhalati and wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle – for next season, alongside six other players of colour – Qaasim Adams, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Eden Links, Rowan Richards and Tabraiz Shamsi.
“We have quality depth in all positions and we’re not sitting around thinking we’re going to be under pressure because of the new requirements. In fact we have to find a way of playing all these guys. A lot of our players of colour are actually pushing for places in the national side and they’re all there entirely on merit,” Walter said at the weekend during the launch of the new IXU brand of cricket equipment, for which he is an ambassador.
While there will obviously be more pressure on Mosehle, Mbhalati and Dala to perform, Walter said he thinks the added expectation will bring out the best in them.
“I have massive faith in Mangi. He’s had two stand-out 50-over campaigns and I’ve seen him make hundreds. In four-day cricket, he fell short last season, but I absolutely believe that he can score runs at that level.
“The pressure might actually be good for him, he’s occupying a hugely important position in four-day cricket. That number six/seven position has been key to many of the Proteas’ successes in recent years.
“Junior Dala has worked unbelievably hard in the off season after not having the best start to his Titans’ career, but we saw flashes of what he can do. He can bowl quickly and he’s clearly got something. Ethy was always going to be around anyway for another season, but having Junior in the squad has pushed him and he’s been working very hard,” Walter said.
With David Wiese, Marchant de Lange and Richards also being key bowlers, and JP de Villiers and Vincent Moore in reserve, Walter is confident the Titans have the attack to win trophies next season, but he is hoping his senior batsmen dish up many more runs than in 2013/14.
“I think Rowan is going to do great things, he has pace and he’s a left-hander, it was just sad that he was injured last season; Marchant is doing nicely and he delivered some real heat when he played at the end of last season; and David was unbelievable with the new ball and showed real skill. So all of a sudden the seam attack looks very good, plus JP has come a long way and Vince Moore bowled particularly well in the four games he played.
“But first and foremost what we need to improve is the performances of our senior players. We’ve added Dean Elgar, who will be key as another senior player, but the guys already there – Davids, Behardien, Albie Morkel, Kuhn – they’ve been performing year in, year out and I’ll be looking to them to really deliver,” Walter said.
Apart from those established batsmen, there is real talent waiting in the wings in Graeme van Buuren, Cobus Pienaar, Adams, Theunis de Bruyn and Ernest Kemm, and that meant there was cover available should there be injuries, national call-ups or loss of form.
“The great thing is that if we lose a player, it’s not the end of the world. The young guys have been performing, showing no fear and just revelling in the opportunity to play. Graeme was a standout batsman when it came to playing under pressure and that’s huge, a really great thing. Theunis showed in his first outing that he’s ready for franchise cricket and Ernest made a fifty in his second game. So depth is not something I’m worried about,” Walter said.
The Titans started training for the new season on May 1 and have been working hard on improving their skills.
“We fell short on our ability to deliver our skills so we started training earlier and have been doing that every day,” Walter said.
And the Titans will start playing competitive cricket as early as August, with the eKasi Challenge against the Highveld Lions, two three-day practice games and the Global Softech Sixes and Northerns Bash.
Titans contracted squad 2014/15: Qaasim Adams, Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Marchant de Lange, JP de Villiers, Heino Kuhn, Eden Links, Ethy Mbhalati, Albie Morkel, Mangaliso Mosehle, Cobus Pienaar, Rowan Richards, Tabraiz Shamsi, Graeme van Buuren (rookie contract), Roelof van der Merwe, Shaun von Berg, David Wiese, Jacques Rudolph (One-Day Cup only). CSA-contracted – Dean Elgar, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel.