De­spite teething prob­lems, the league has been raised from the ashes

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

When the Cape Town Blitz and the Tsh­wane Spar­tans kick off the in­au­gu­ral Mzansi Su­per League (MSL) T20 tour­na­ment at New­lands on Fri­day, Cricket SA (CSA) will have done the equiv­a­lent of un­scram­bling scram­bled egg in fi­nally get­ting the com­pe­ti­tion up and run­ning.

This is ac­cord­ing to Ti­tans chief ex­ec­u­tive Jac­ques Faul, whose fran­chise is host­ing the Spar­tans in the six-team com­pe­ti­tion.

The rest of the teams are Dur­ban Heat, Jozi Stars, Nel­son Man­dela Bay Gi­ants and Paarl Rocks (see graphic). The MSL is the re­place­ment for last year’s failed Global T20 League.

Faul said he was impressed with CSA’s re­cov­ery in pro­duc­ing a R10 mil­lion com­pe­ti­tion from the ashes of what should have been its In­dian Premier League or Big Bash League.

“You’ve got to con­grat­u­late them for pulling it off de­spite their strug­gles, which was a bit like un­scram­bling scram­bled eggs. They’ve done well to get to this stage,” Faul said.

Th­ese strug­gles have not only been well­doc­u­mented, they haven’t ex­actly gone away.

Lack of a head­line spon­sor and fail­ure to agree on broad­cast rights money with Su­perS­port con­trib­uted to the Global T20 be­ing still­born, and the CSA goes into the new com­pe­ti­tion – whose fi­nal is on December 16 – with nei­ther.

While they have signed a broad­cast deal with the broke SABC, which some claim still owes the CSA mil­lions from a 2012 agree­ment, it has widely been re­ported that the broad­caster has not paid a cent for the rights. As one in­dus­try in­sider mem­o­rably de­scribed it at the time, the new con­tract with the SABC is “like sell­ing your car to your cousin who doesn’t have a job”.

While the SABC deal means the MSL will have a reach of 12 mil­lion view­ers – in­stead of near eq­uity part­ners Su­perS­port’s 2 mil­lion view­ers – and the broad­caster can on-sell the rights, whether it has the ca­pac­ity to cover the event has been ques­tioned.

With both or­gan­i­sa­tions keen to keep any kind of in­for­ma­tion away from the pub­lic, there is talk of a Sin­ga­pore pro­duc­tion house be­ing roped in to help. But while it’s a smart way of do­ing things be­cause it would take the re­spon­si­bil­ity off the SABC’s hands, it’ll come at a hefty price.

Other loose ends that haven’t been tied up are rum­blings that two of the own­ers of the Global T20 teams still in­tend to sue the CSA – which, de­pend­ing on whom you speak to, has bud­geted for a loss of R40 mil­lion or R80 mil­lion to stage the MSL – for mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages.

One could also count as a po­ten­tial is­sue the fact that some coaches are dis­grun­tled to be coach­ing the new teams be­cause they didn’t get re­im­bursed for their “in­volve­ment” in the Global T20, but they have agreed to coach in the new league.

But, as one official said, CSA’s main con­cern is sim­ply get­ting the com­pe­ti­tion off the ground in the hopes that the smat­ter­ing of Proteas and over­seas stars put on enough of a show to win over the many naysay­ers and at­tract cor­po­rate in­ter­est.

“We had a com­pe­ti­tion that we had a draft for, but it didn’t hap­pen. You can’t blame cor­po­rates for want­ing to have a look first be­fore com­mit­ting them­selves. If the com­pe­ti­tion works out, they will come,” said Faul.

Af­ter all, the com­pe­ti­tion will still boast talent of the cal­i­bre of AB de Vil­liers and Proteas in­clud­ing Kag­iso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Quin­ton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Andile Phehluk­wayo and Im­ran Tahir.

In­ter­na­tional in­ter­est will be propped up by the likes of world T20 num­ber one bowler Rashid Khan, as well as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Eoin Mor­gan.

Rook­ies Eathan Bosch, Sinethemba Qeshile and Tony de Zorzi will bring in the new blood.

The tour­na­ment prize money works as fol­lows: R7 mil­lion for the win­ners; R2.5 mil­lion for the run­ners-up; R100 000 for the man of the se­ries; and R15 000 for the man of the match at all games.

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