New recruit Zubayr Hamza says he has joined the DP World Lions in order to further his ambitions of returning to the Proteas team and he is confident the set-up at the DP World Wanderers is perfect for getting the best out of him.

The former Western Province batsman has played six Tests and an ODI for South Africa, having debuted in 2019. But he has suffered an unfortunate time since then with injury and then a nine-month doping ban, after he accidentally took his father’s high blood pressure tablets, interrupting his career.

He returned to action last December and showed he was close to his best again with a century of great class and elegance against the Lions at the DP World Wanderers Stadium at the end of February. And now Hamza heads into the new season as one of the Lions’ key batsmen.

“I’ll always be grateful to Western Province, having played for them for close to 10 years, but I’ve been thinking about a move for a while and it was just the right time in terms of my path so far,” Hamza said at the impressive and colourful DP World Lions season launch at the DP World Wanderers Stadium.

“It definitely feels like a fresh start and a reset, and it’s not just about winning trophies for me. I believe being here is a step closer to international level in terms of the organisation, the process, how things are run and the work that goes on behind the scenes for the team. I certainly have ambitions to play international cricket again and playing for the Lions feels like a step closer to it and I feel good about my future here. One of the reasons for moving was definitely to challenge myself, to get out of my comfort zone and play in an environment that can unlock my potential by asking tougher questions of me,” Hamza said.

One of the most talented strokeplayers in the country, Hamza is also delighted to be working with two other new arrivals at the DP World Wanderers, head coach Russell Domingo and batting coach Hashim Amla. As a duo with vast experience around the world, they will provide the finer details that will surely see the 28-year-old prosper at international level soon.

“The Lions having brought in Russell and Hash certainly works in my favour, and the small things they can point out are bound to bring rewards. Everyone here has been very welcoming, but we’ve been putting in a lot of hard work ahead of the season and it has not been easy. I enjoy the competition in the squad and it means you can’t take anything for granted. I just want to be a consistent performer and repay the faith that has been shown in me,” Hamza said.

While the amiable Rondebosch Boys High product is careful not to fall into the trap of being too ambitious before the season even starts, he says his goal for 2023/24 is to contend for the leading run-scorer’s title in domestic cricket. Hamza is also eager to perform in all three formats, and he has shown previously that he has the horsepower to also dominate in T20 cricket, having scored a century against the DP World Lions in 2021.

And being based at the DP World Wanderers, he has two reasons to feel confident that he can achieve that: Hamza made his Test debut on the ground so there are fond memories, and the pitch and pristine outfield generally reward stroke players.

“I made my Test and franchise debut for the Cobras at the Bullring and I have been fortunate enough to score some runs here. It’s conducive to quick-scoring, but it can also be difficult for top-order batsmen, so you have to get that balance right between risk and reward. And there’s always an awesome atmosphere when the stadium is full, it’s electric,” Hamza said.