No, CJ de Villiers isn’t related to AB. And yes, he does get asked that all the time. While AB, the man with the golden bat, is already being talked of as South Africa’s future captain, CJ, the 23-year-old pacer is looking at the upcoming Champions League as a chance to gain a foothold in the national squad.
His team, the Diamond Eagles, is in town ahead of the League and CJ, who has picked up 93 wickets from 30 first-class matches this season and is coming to the League on the back of an impressive 14 wickets from 10 domestic Pro20 games in South Africa, is quietly confident. “This is my first time in India and I’m hoping to make it count,” he said.
But CJ is not the only Eagles’ player looking to make a name for himself here. the Eagles, in a sense, are that Champions League oddity — they don’t have a single centrally contracted player, with skipper Boeta Dippenaar and wicketkeeper Morne Wan Wyk being possibly the only two known names.
While Dippenaar retired from international cricket last year, Wan Wyk has turned out for his country in six ODIs and two T20s since his 2003 debut.
Despite the lack of star power, the Eagles are widely regarded as the dark horses of the event, a view Dippenaar shares. “One tends to look at the opposition and say that it is a powerful side, but we have a strong team too. We are one of the two best sides in South Africa and are looking forward to showcasing our talent,” he said. He said he expected the game against New South Wales to be the “big one”.
Asked how the team was planning to adapt to Indian conditions, Dippenaar said: “With no one having played in India before, coach Sarel (Cilliers) insisted we come here a little early.”
According to Cilliers, the important thing was to make sure they stuck to the gameplan. It’s always good to be the so-called underdogs,” said Cilliers, adding that (former South Africa pacer) Alan Donald had given them some idea of subcontinental conditions.