Stalwart Knights batsman Pite van Biljon believes he is fit and raring to go following one of the strangest off-seasons after Covid-19 struck and he had to undergo shoulder surgery as well.
But the 34-year-old is back, fitter than ever, and looking forward to the gun being set off on Monday morning when the 2020/21 season officially gets going in the form of the 4-Day Domestic Series.
“It has been a very different few months compared to what we are used to,” he said.
“I started about three months ago and had my own programme because of the shoulder op.
“Everyone has obviously done a lot of conditioning because you could only train in your groups of two or three when we first started. The guys are looking really fit now, most have broken all their records as expected because we had more fitness focus than cricket.
“All of us are in excellent condition, there are a few obvious niggles in between, a few sore bodies as well, because no amount of fitness can prepare you for four days of cricket, standing for 100 overs in the sun. But it's all good and we're raring to go.”
Van Biljon and his team will have some new and big personalities around them this season, starting with a new head coach in the dugout – a man that needs little introduction.
Legendary fast bowler Allan Donald, a son of cricket in the region having played his entire career there, has taken the reins, with big things expected.
“AD as coach, he's been here all his life,” Van Biljon says.
“He knows our system, our people, our brand and just everything about cricket in the region, he knows it inside out.
“Obviously for him to be with us, and he's a Hall of Famer, so when he speaks in the changeroom, everyone is on the edge of their seats listening. The respect we have for the guy and the respect he has for the brand and the respect he creates is massive. We definitely needed a coach like that.
“But not taking away anything from JP (Triegaardt, his assistant coach), who is a Kimberley guy through and through. He is also a guy who knows our system and our players, knows the brand and the conditions, so between them we're very lucky to have two of the best coaches in the country going around at the moment.”
There are also some big new arrivals at the Central Franchise, none bigger than the signing of former Proteas batsman Farhaan Behardien.
“We’re really pleased to have Farhaan Behardien in our squad for the season. He'll be another massive player for us, a senior player, a great batsman and I'm sure the whole squad will feed off his knowledge. He's a great guy to have in the team as well.
“So the excitement is building and it's really getting close now. It's been a good old slog the pre-season. We've played a couple of warm up games in the last few weeks. Some of the guys are looking really good. We've got some exciting youngsters and we also have some seriously experienced players, Fudgie adding to that.”
The Knights begin the season with a clash against the Warriors in Bloemfontein.
Van Biljon added: “It will be important to start well and we'll be looking for consistency. No stone has been left unturned and we look forward to enjoying a successful season. We're really looking forward to a big season for the Knights.”
- CSA media