Sunday Times

It’s game on, says Cricket SA

- By TELFORD VICE Cricket · Sports · India · Pakistan · Indian Premier League · Nagpur · Eoin Morgan · Colin Ingram · Daniel Vettori · Tom Moody · Vodacom Group · South African Airways · Cricket South Africa · T20 Global League · Chris Gayle · Misbah-ul-Haq · Lalit Modi · Brendon McCullum · Shane Watson · Sunil Narine · Rilee Rossouw · Morné Morkel · Wasim Akram · Stephen Fleming

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.

 ?? Pic­ture: Gallo Im­ages ?? Chen­nai Su­per Kings fans found some­thing to cheer about be­fore the Dec­can Charg­ers beat their team in the 2009 IPL fi­nal at the Wan­der­ers in Jo­han­nes­burg.
Pic­ture: Gallo Im­ages Chen­nai Su­per Kings fans found some­thing to cheer about be­fore the Dec­can Charg­ers beat their team in the 2009 IPL fi­nal at the Wan­der­ers in Jo­han­nes­burg.

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