THE results speak for themselves: KZN Inland have so far proven themself to be one of the leading provincial cricket sides in South Africa across all formats of the game.
They are top of the CSA T20 Challenge, lead their pool in the Sunfoil Cup 3-Day Competition, are mid-table in the CSA Provincial One-Day Challenge, and finished as runners-up in the Africa T20 Cup.
Under first-year head coach Shane Burger, the Inland team have logged seven T20 wins and only one loss, two victories and three draws in the three-day competition, and one win and one defeat in the 50-over game. Much of their success has come from their attitude, focus and teamwork, Burger told The Witness recently at the team’s mid-season camp.
A former captain of the team, Burger said: “I say this with the utmost respect to all of my players, a lot of our guys are probably rejects from other franchises, almost throwaways, and they have had a second crack at their careers.
“It’s amazing to see how, with the right attitude and mindset what you can deliver. And the guys have certainly shown they have the quality to play at a higher level. It’s amazing, if you get the team spirit right, and things start clicking, what guys can really achieve.
“Always beware the cricketer with a point to prove. I think that is when a cricketer is at his most dangerous, so we use that to our advantage.”
Captain SJ Erwee told The Witness yesterday: “Winning is fun and it becomes a habit. It’s contagious. You want to keep winning because it’s fun, and as soon as you have fun you know you want to have more fun.”
Burger said calling a smaller city like Pietermaritzburg home was an advantage for his charges as it allowed them to focus on their game and fitness without the distractions of the bigger cities. “We definitely use it as a positive.”
Although KZN Inland have a small squad, the players offer up a wide variety of options, enabling Burger to select according to the conditions his team are playing in, and, pleasingly for him, fringe players have more often than not delivered when they’ve been given a run.
“In every match, we have certain individuals who have stuck their hands up. Yes, players like Kyle Nipper and Graham Hume have been [consistently] good, but there have been various other guys who have stuck their hands up and contributed towards the team’s success. It’s not just two or three guys, it’s a team performance more often than not,” he explained.
As an example, skipper SJ Erwee spoke about 21-year-old Kyle Simmonds: “A guy like Kyle is a quality player. He is still young and he got one game at KZN Coastals, and they didn’t really back him. He has come to us and he has actually won us games. He’s been given an opportunity to express himself.
“The big thing I have noticed in Maritzburg over the last couple of seasons is that we have become a real team, where we care about each other and each other’s successes, and we want each person to do well. In other teams, guys are playing for the same spot and there are a lot of individuals in those teams. There aren’t many guys who are willing to fight for each other, whereas here at Inland guys are fighting for each other.
“When guys are given an opportunity, they have full confidence in their ability and in their skills. That causes them to succeed,” Erwee said.