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CLT20 Staff in Durban

It’s no surprise we’re in the semis: Phangiso

Lions spinner says his team is better prepared and more informed

The Champions League Twenty20 is not all about the superstars coming together and putting up a spectacle. It’s also about players emerging from obscurity and turning into superstars. Names like Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine are testimony to that.

While still a long way to go before being hailed as the next superstar, Lions left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso has made a decent name for himself through the 2012 edition of CLT20. With eight wickets in four matches at an economy rate of 4.43, Phangiso has won his battles against some of the best batsmen in the world, including one Mr. Sachin Tendulkar.

As he prepares to help his team reach the final of CLT20, the 28-year-old admits having “a bit of nerves” but is also confident his team can achieve something special.

“Obviously, it’s a big game and personally, I have a bit of nerves thinking I’m going to play in the semis. But I don’t see the need to change anything or do anything differently. We’ve just got to concentrate and keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last week and a half or so. Hopefully, everything will come right.”

This is the Lions’ second attempt at the CLT20 title, after 2010. While two years ago they failed to build on their opening match win over the Mumbai Indians, this year, the team has returned better and wiser.

“The first time we came into this tournament, we weren’t sure of what to expect. We didn’t know the calibre of the players we were playing against since we hadn’t played them before. This time we knew what the standard of cricket is like here and what to expect. We could prepare ourselves to those standards. That has helped us a lot,” said Phangiso.

The preparation has been thorough and the Lions’ spinner doesn’t think the team’s progress in this tournament should come as a surprise to anyone.

“We always thought we can make it to the semis and even the final. The guys have been working hard since April, when we lost the final of the MiWay T20 Cup to the Titans. So, it’s not a surprise that we’re in semi-finals; we were expected to do well.”

The Lions have gained much from Phangiso’s performance. But what has he achieved as a cricketer playing in this tournament? “It has helped in a way that I can gauge myself against the best in the world. To know that I bowled well to them boosts my confidence. I know now that I can at least compete with the best of the best. I now have a better idea of where I stand in my career and how I should move forward,” he said.

Phangiso comes across as a confident and mature young man, who understands his strengths plays within them. “For me it’s more about bowling the right line consistently. If I’m hitting a certain spot at will, I think I’m there.

“In the shorter formats I don’t think turn, bounce and all that play a big role. It’s just about out-thinking the batsman and being consistent. Even during my off-season preparation I just tried hard to achieve that level of confidence where I know I can hit the required spot every time,” he said.

As the Lions take field for the semi-finals, it will be the first time in the tournament that they will play in Durban. While Phangiso has done well at the Wanderers and Newlands, the coastal conditions and pacy wicket at the Kingsmead will be a little less conducive for him as a spinner. But instead of worrying about the wicket, Phangiso takes it as a challenge, which he is confident of overcoming.

“I’ve always enjoyed bowling here and I think it has got something for both seamers and spinners. I’ve done well here most of the times. Also, I’m not someone who looks at the wicket and thinks whether it will assist me or not. I just concentrate on what I need to do as a bowler,” he said.
If the left-arm spinner produces something special, his phone could very well start ringing with IPL offers from the other end.

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