Twelve years ago Bob Homani was top scoring for South Africa in the ICC Under-19 World Cup final against Australia. Now he’s preparing to fly to Northern Ireland to test his skills in the Northern Cricket Union with Templepatrick Cricket Club.
The Ballyclare-based club has signed the 30-year-old all-rounder as its overseas amateur player for the 2014 season.
Bob - real name Zwelibanzi Homani - grew up in the Eastern Cape and played at all age levels for Eastern Province. A talented right-handed batsman/wicketkeeper, who can also bowl off-spin, he was selected for South Africa’s 2002 U19 World Cup squad alongside Ryan McLaren and Hashim Amla, who went on to become senior internationals.
Bob’s half century in the final couldn’t prevent a seven-wicket defeat to an Australian side brimming with world class cricketers, including Cameron White, Xavier Doherty and George Bailey. But after the World Cup, he was included in the South African National Academy under Mickey Arthur and Vincent Barnes, before relocating to the Western Cape.
He enjoyed a prolific 2005/06 season with Western Province, hitting his maiden first class hundred amongst 383 runs at an average of nearly 32.
After taking a break from the game due to family commitments, Bob returned to action with Durbanville Cricket Club in September 2012 and made up for lost time by helping his team to the Western Province Cricket Association title at Newlands.
He has never been to Northern Ireland before, but did spend last season playing for Marlborough CC in the West of England Premier League, where he scored 641 runs at an average of almost 46 and chipped in with 10 wickets.
Bob knows the conditions here will be a bit different to what he’s used to in South Africa, but feels his time in England will stand him in good stead.
“Last season I played in England on slow, low, damp pitches and I did well. I will need to adapt very quickly though to the pitches in Ireland,” he said.
Bob, who will also undertake coaching duties with Templepatrick, is keen to get started with his new club, saying he “can’t wait to be on the flight.”
He’s due in Northern Ireland in mid-April, just in time for the start of the new season.
“One of the guys I know here in South Africa played there (in Ireland) and he’s told me that Templepatrick is a very well run club and has a lovely ground, so I can’t wait to get there and to start playing,” he added.
Welcoming the club’s new signing, TCC Cricket Development Officer, Andy McCrea said: “We’re delighted to have secured Bob’s services for the coming season. We have heard good reports about his batting and bowling ability, his drive and determination as a coach and him as a person, so we’re confident he will be a great addition to our club.
“Last season was our first experience of life in Section One and we showed in most games that we are a talented young team that is more than capable of holding its own.
“Our aim last year was to retain our place in Section One. And thanks to some good wins we did just that. We also suffered some very narrow defeats in tight matches, so hopefully we will have learnt from our mistakes and will be pushing for a place in the top half of the table come August.”
Bob Homani replaces Australian all-rounder Warren Clunes, who won’t be returning to Northern Ireland this summer, in the TCC First XI line-up.
“Warren was our first ever overseas player and we are grateful to him for his significant contribution to the club last year, as a player and a coach. His runs and wickets helped us retain our Section One status and we wish him well for the future.
“Preparations for the new season are already well under way and securing a signing of Bob Homani’s ability should give the whole club a real boost.
“Our winter nets start this month and hopefully we will be in good shape for the summer,” Andy added.
For more information about Templepatrick Cricket Club, log on to www.templepatrickcc.co.uk