'Excited' de Villiers to captain Tshwane Spartans in MSL

AB de Villiers raises his bat after getting to his half-century BCCI

AB de Villiers has been appointed captain of Tshwane Spartans for the first edition of the Mzansi Super League in South Africa.

The 34-year-old has leadership experience to draw from, having captained South Africa 124 times in international cricket, and will also draw on the tremendous depth of his T20 experience. An IPL veteran, he has featured in every season of the tournament since 2008.

"I try to lead from the front and rely on the experience I've picked up over the years," he said. "I believe I'm a decent man-manager when it comes to understanding players' strengths and weaknesses. I'm looking forward to it. It's an exciting challenge and I'm ready for it."

When he leads Tshwane Spartans out on the opening night against Cape Town Blitz on Friday, it will be his first appearance in a competitive match since he announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this year. His time with Spartans will also represent something of a homecoming; he was born, raised, schooled and learned his cricket in Tshwane, and Spartans' home ground, SuperSport Park, was also de Villiers' base in franchise cricket with Titans.

"I think it will be a great game and I am looking forward to it," de Villiers said. "The quality of cricket in the Mzansi Super League is going to be good. It's very exciting, I am very happy to finally be part of the tournament that I believe will help South African cricket development and give youngsters incredible exposure to play with some of the world superstars."

Rilee Rossouw will replace Zimbabwe allrounder Sean Williams for the first weekend, as Williams is currently in Bangladesh with his national side and needs to travel to Harare after that tour in order to process his visa application for South Africa.

"Even though we're missing out on a few players that aren't available yet, we still have a fantastic balance in the side. There's good skill right through, with batting depth all the way down to No. 9, which isn't normally the case with T20 cricket.

"I'm excited about our bowlers as well. There's lots of experience with a number of guys who have done this day in and day out, and a couple of wristspinners, with the option to go right or left-arm orthodox, so there are lots of variations."

Having previously worked alongside de Villiers as both a player and coach, Mark Boucher believes his experience makes him well-suited for a leadership role.

"The players that make up our squad are leaders in their own right but you need someone to tie that all together and AB knows these conditions better than anyone," Boucher said. "He's comfortable in his own space and in tournaments like these.

"In the IPL he's played in big pressure matches so he's the perfect man for the job. He leads from the front and plays with great intensity. For T20 cricket that's what the game is all about. AB and Virat Kohli are in the same sort of mould, and how Virat rallies his team is how I think AB will rally the Spartans."

Spartans' first match is one of three on the road before they return to SuperSport Park against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants on November 25.

"We start with three away games which is not normally ideal, but on the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to get a few away wins under the belt and hopefully we start well," de Villiers said.