Time for all of lo­cal cricket to step up its game

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

HAV­ING watched the broad­cast of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) launch of its new T20 Global League live on Face­book – a game-changer in it­self – it is clear that South African cricket fans are set to be hit with some­thing they have not yet ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore this com­ing sum­mer.

The clos­est was, of course, when the Indian Pre­mier League was hastily re­lo­cated to South Africa in 2009. And what an event that was. It was cricket on steroids. South Africans were not just en­grossed by the star play­ers out on the field, but also the A-list Bol­ly­wood celebri­ties who were mas­quer­aded on the big screens ev­ery time they stood up in the pres­i­den­tial suites.

I specif­i­cally re­mem­ber an aunt of mine, who had never shown any in­ter­ested in cricket – and that’s quite an achieve­ment if you knew my cricket-crazy fam­ily – call­ing me up for tick­ets to at­tend a New­lands matche purely be­cause Shah Rukh Khan “was go­ing to be un­der the same sky as her for the night”.

That’s the X-fac­tor “King Khan” pos­sesses and I’m sure it’s go­ing to be no dif­fer­ent when he pulls up in his orange Lam­borgh­ini – or what­ever lux­ury ve­hi­cle he will have at the time – for the open­ing game in Cape Town.

In fact, I ac­tu­ally think it will pos­si­bly be even cra­zier, for un­like the IPL – where lo­cal fans had no real as­so­ci­a­tions with the teams, Shah Rukh – who also owns the Kolkata Knight Rid­ers – is now a Kaapie af­ter the superstar was un­veiled as the owner of the Cape Town fran­chise on Mon­day.

Equally, the spin-offs for lo­cal do­mes­tic play­ers and as­so­ci­a­tions are mas­sive.

Do­mes­tic crick­eters have for far too long not swam in the same pool as their rugby coun­ter­parts, and lately some of their PSL com­pa­tri­ots are also fi­nan­cially more con­tent.

Even the ad­vent of fran­chise cricket in South Africa – where there are only ap­prox­i­mately 100 play­ers fully con­tracted be­sides the Proteas – has not dras­ti­cally ben­e­fited the do­mes­tic crick­eter’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

How­ever, if CSA are se­ri­ous about get­ting bums on seats when the league starts in Novem­ber, which I be­lieve will ul­ti­mately de­fine the suc­cess of this event, then the spec­ta­tor’s over­all ex­pe­ri­ence has to be im­proved on im­mea­sur­ably.

The fact that CSA, along with the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, have opted to in­vest R350 mil­lion on sta­dium re­fur­bish­ment and up­grades over the next three years is the first step in the right di­rec­tion.

Hav­ing also spent some time with CSA’s me­dia guru, Al­taaf Khazi, at South Africa’s in­au­gu­ral pink-ball day-night Test in Ade­laide last year, I have no doubt notes were taken on what “a day out at the cricket” ac­tu­ally means where the off-field ac­tiv­i­ties ri­val any­thing the Dur­ban July or The Met can put on as a spec­ta­cle.

Lo­cal sta­dium ven­dors have long cried out for a more en­tic­ing do­mes­tic prod­uct to lure peo­ple through the turn­stiles.

Now is the time for them to up their game, too.

My only hope is that CSA and its au­di­tors EY (pre­vi­ously Ernst & Young) have done thor­ough back­ground checks on all the own­ers to en­sure there have been no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the pur­chases of the eight fran­chises based in Jo­han­nes­burg, Pre­to­ria, Benoni, Bloem­fontein, Dur­ban, Port El­iz­a­beth, Stel­len­bosch and Cape Town.

Like­wise, that CSA have also fol­lowed the cor­rect cor­po­rate gov­er­nance with re­gards to their own in­ter­nal struc­tures, for the last thing the T20 Global League needs is another drawn-out saga, like the one that ul­ti­mately saw to the sack­ing of pre­vi­ous chief ex­ec­u­tive Ger­ald Ma­jola, who was found guilty of ir­reg­u­lar bonus pay­ments re­lated to the host­ing of that very same IPL in 2009.

It is ex­cit­ing times in­deed for South African cricket.

Let’s just make sure the juice is worth the squeeze!

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