It’s game on, says Cricket SA
Amid all the clumsy, inept, downright dumb machinations by their suits, and the increasingly crazy sideline barking from T20GL franchise owners, Cricket SA say they will deliver a T20 tournament this summer that will represent progress. But what will this tournament look like?
If one of cricket’s stars admits to having no knowledge about it, what chance of success can the event have?
● Remember the 2007 World Twenty20? Probably not: it’s another blob of scrambled egg that has accumulated on SA’s face during these long, lean, trophyless years.
But in those frenetic 13 days, between the jolt of Chris Gayle scoring the first century in T20 internationals, the frustration of the home side veering into the weeds before the knockout stage, and the fairytale of India beating Pakistan by five runs in a final that was alive and kicking until halfway through the last over — when Misbah-ul-Haq, of all people, tried to scoop what would have been a six to win it and was caught in the deep — something else noteworthy happened.
Neither the press nor the police were anywhere near this event, but it was no less important for that. It was there, in discussions between Lalit Modi and Gerald Majola, that a defining part of SA cricket’s future was mooted and mulled over.
The Indian Premier League came like a comet to our shores in 2009, but it was in those not quite two years previously that the idea took form.
At least, it did according to Modi. Majola wasn’t so sure when he was asked this week about the how, where and when of the notion going from fantasy to fruition: “I can’t confirm or deny. I just can’t remember …”
Eleven years on the memory of the IPL being moved, lock, stock and thousands of smoking strokes, across the world with savage efficiency and apparently absolute seamlessness — television viewers would hardly have known whether a game was being played in Nagpur or at Newlands — is uppermost as Cricket SA (CSA) contemplates walking on water again.
Players who want to be part of a T20 tournament that — as of Friday — had still to be named, in which teams do not yet exist to play fixtures that have not been announced at venues that remain unknown under the banners of unidentified sponsors, have until Tuesday to indicate their interest. At least a broadcaster has been unveiled: the SABC.
The draft has been scheduled for October 17, and players “should be available from 9 November 2018 until 17 December 2018”, a CSA statement said this week.
They will be divided into six squads of 16 centrally contracted players each — a minimum of three and a maximum of four foreigners or Kolpakers — to contest 32 games.
Who those players might be we won’t know for a while. But we can get an idea of who they will not be by looking at the squad lists for the second edition of the T10 Cricket League, to be played in Sharjah from November 23 to December 2.
Gayle is on the T10’s books, as are Brendon McCullum, Carlos Brathwaite, Shane Watson, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, Darren Sammy, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Alex Hales, Kusal Perera, Rilee Rossouw, Colin Ingram and Morné Morkel. Daniel Vettori, Wasim Akram, Tom Moody and Stephen Fleming are among the coaches.
Those are, with the few exceptions, the biggest names in the barnstorming world T20 circus, and without most of them no tournament can hope to take its place in the ever lengthening list of events in the format that has become the game’s most relevant at a public level.
Asked if he was interested in throwing his hat into the ring, one of the international arena’s marquee players said: “I don’t know much about it and maybe that’s a good thing. The SA players should all be available, so that will make for good viewing. If they can snaffle some good overseas players that would be great. But I’m pretty at sea on this topic.”
If, days before he would need to commit to CSA’s tournament, one of cricket’s most marketable stars admits to having next to no knowledge about it, what chance of success can the event have?
For his information, the Sunday Times understands the national government might help foot the bill and that Vodacom could come on board as a sponsor.
He might also consider that, unlike parastatals like SAA, which survives on bailout after bailout, the SABC has shown the gumption to find a way to help get itself out of debt.
And that the addition of SA’s international players transformed last season’s franchise T20 tournament into something watchable.
So there’s hope. Not a lot, but — as we learnt in 2009 — anything is possible.