NAMIBIAN cricketers will have a lot to play for when the 2020/21 Namibia Cricket Premier League season gets underway this weekend.
With Namibia having qualified for the T20 World Cup in India in November next year, players will be out to stake their claims in the national squad, while a number of exciting youngsters will also be keen to make their mark.
In matches this weekend, the defending champions Windhoek High School Old Boys host Trustco United at the WHS field, while Wanderers host Welwitschia at the Wanderers field.
Old Boys broke Wanderers' recent dominance when they won the league title for the first time in three years last season, and with a strong and well-balanced team they are well-placed to retain the title.
They have a number of experienced national players, led by national captain Gerhard Erasmus, the indefatigable all-rounder Craig Williams, and Zane Green, who has flourished as an opening batsman in recent pre-season matches.
Besides that, they have acquired the services of national pace bowler Ruben Trumpelmann, as well as the young national spinner Mauritius Ngupita, who joined them from Welwitschia Cricket Club.
Another national spinner, Zhivago Groenewald has recovered from a knee injury, while they have acquired some exciting youngsters like batsman Gerhard Janse van Rensburg, pace bowler Alex Volschenk and all-rounder Dirkie Theunissen.
Captain Erasmus was especially pleased about the long term development prospects of the club.
Ït's obviously nice to win, but in the long run development is more important, so I'm very happy about the youngsters that have joined us. The squad is well-balanced in terms of youth and experience, while we also have players of different races and backgrounds, which is also important in terms of transformation," he said.
Old Boys will start as the strong favourites against Trustco United who finished bottom of the log last season, after winning just one of their eight matches.
Furthermore, two of United's top players, Danie van Schoor and Dewald Nell, have joined Wanderers, although the young all-rounder Sean Fouche has joined them from Old Boys.
Erasmus, however, said they would not underestimate United.
"The former national captains and brothers Sarel and Louis Burger have joined their committee and are working hard, putting in new structures and building for the future, so we will not underestimate them," he said.
United have a strong batting lineup with players like Hendrik van der Walt, Lohan Lourens, Eben van Wyk and Darren van Dyk, but they will be a bit thin in the bowling department through the unavailability of Nyashadzaishe Nyasha and Dickson Vambe, who have travelled to the coast to coach teams at the Salt Refiners Youth Tournament.
They have also acquired some exciting youngsters like batsman Ramsay McDonald, wicket keeper-batsman JW Visagie and all-rounder Christiaan Delport, and some of them could already feature this weekend, according to United coach Trevor Britten.
"We are working on a five-year development plan, and a lot of youngsters have joined us, so the idea is to develop them and give them more opportunities," he said.
Britten admitted that the odds were stacked against them, but he was not too perturbed.
"Old Boys are the favourites and I think they will be expecting an easy game, but if we remain disciplined and put them under pressure, anything can happen," he said.
Wanderers, meanwhile, host Welwitschia at their Pionierspark ground and will also be favoured to get off to a winning start.
They have a strong line-up with several national players like JP Kotze, Karl Birkenstock, Jan Frylinck, JJ Smit, Michau du Preez, Bernard Scholtz and former national captain Nicolaas Scholtz, as well as upcoming youngsters like Jan Izak de Villiers and Lu-Hendro de Waal.
Welwitschia have improved a lot in recent years and finished third overall last season, while they have some talented youngsters coming through like Matthew de Gouveia, Mias Strauss and Nian Grobler, but the departure of two of their top juniors over the past year - Ngupita to Old Boys and Ben Shikongo to CCD, will be difficult to replace.
Both matches are due to start at 09h30 on Saturday, while the teams will also square off in the T20 Premier League at the same time and venues on Sunday.