THERE will be tears at Titwood this afternoon as a new domestic season gets underway with a touching tribute to Con de Lange who died last week at the age of 38.
Players and officials of Clydesdale and Ferguslie, the two teams de Lange represented and coached with such distinction, will line up for a minute’s silence in honour of one of the most popular figures in the Scottish game and beyond.
Clydesdale’s Colin Mitchell, a close friend of the South African-born all-rounder, said: “Con’s death is a deeply felt loss for everyone.
“Clearly he was a player and coach who had a huge impact at both clubs at different stages of his career.
“The tributes throughout the cricketing world speak volumes about the sort of person he was. Although we are all hurting terribly, above all our thoughts are with his family.”
Ferguslie captain Riyaad Henry was a youngster in Boland when he first encountered de Lange practising for hours in the nets with his father, the South Africa and Scotland legend, Omar Henry.
He said: “The journey from being that little kid watching on to actually playing with and against Con has been a huge honour.
“Hopefully we as players can now honour him by playing the game the way he used to – play hard and play to win but play fair and always be respectful to the game, your opponents and officials.”
In the midst of such emotion, today’s match may seem an irrelevance but the fact is that the winner will emerge as early favourites for the Western Premier title, given that Ferguslie are the reigning champions while their hosts were runners-up.
Clydesdale, captained by Paddy Barbour, are without new signing Adil Raza who is in Pakistan following a bereavement, while Ferguslie must fill the void left by the departure of last season’s leading run scorer Michael English who has moved south while new-ball duo Greg Cameron and Jamey Carruthers are unavailable.
Henry added: “I believe we can rebuild and be successful at the same time. My goal is to make sure we all know what we have to do individually to succeed as a team.”
Elsewhere, Drumpellier return to the top flight with a local derby at Uddingston who will be among the challengers after recruiting former Scotland U19 bowler Niall Alexander and welcoming back Anwar Hafeez from Ayr.
Drumps skipper Gordon Shaw said: “We are looking to survive but hopefully we can find our feet quickly and gain some confidence.”
Survival may also be the first priority for fellow promoted side East Kilbride who, led by former Scotland star Qasim Sheikh, visit a Greenock team buoyed by the return of Indian batsman Saurabh Bandaker.
Prestwick and Stirling appear evenly matched for their encounter at Henry Thow Oval while West of Scotland, looking to build on last season’s sixth place, entertain a Poloc team containing five teenagers at Hamilton Crescent.