Why the MSL is a boon and a bother
● The ball is also white, the kit is also colourful, and the restrictions on bowlers are also outrageous. So tell us again, please, why the relevant difference between the limited overs formats isn’t simply this — one of them has, mercifully, scrapped the 30 overs of nurdling in the middle of the innings.
Because that’s too simple. Those 30 overs are good for standing in the world’s longest toilet, beer or boerie queue. And for stacking up advertising slots for broadcasters to earn back some of the millions they spend on the rights. And, sadly, for becoming uncomfortably numb as you watch the only thing that seems to make meaningful progress during those lost two hours: the scoreboard.
Cricket on opioids
Sometimes someone will refuse to forget how to bat like they mean it. Other times they will defy the game plan and actually get people out. But, mostly, in the middle overs of a one-day international you’re enduring cricket on opioids that makes being part of the ooze of traffic on the way home an attractive alternative. If only it was a T20 instead …
Hang on. Batting sides play more expansively in T20s, secure in the assumption that they are less likely to be bowled out.
Correct. All 10 wickets have fallen in 93 of the 250 innings that have been scheduled in one-day internationals this year. In T20s? Only 17 times in 156 innings — less than a third as frequently as in ODIs.
And as the bat dictates the pace and shape of all cricket, bowlers adjust accordingly. So there is advantage in not dismissing a player who disappears into a murky puddle of defence.
All of which can complicate life for people like Linda Zondi. Not only does he lead the panel that will choose 15 men who will try to go two steps beyond and win the 2019 World Cup, he has a T20 tournament in his backyard that could cloud the clarity vital to achieving that goal.
A boon and a bother
What does it mean for the bigger picture when Reeza Hendricks reels off 346 runs in four innings, two of them unbeaten centuries?
Happily, Hendricks hasn’t come from nowhere. A century and a 50 in nine ODIs means he can play, and would not look odd in a World Cup XI.
Aaron Phangiso asks more difficult questions. He last played an ODI more than two years ago, but he could be just the ticket on England’s likely unhelpful conditions. And, going into Friday’s game in the Mzansi Super League (MSL), he has the best economy rate among eligible bowlers who have sent down at least 10 overs in the tournament.
Only three batters have scored more runs than Rassie van der Dussen, the hardest hitter in SA. It’s not difficult to imagine him inflicting the stuff of nightmares on unsuspecting bowlers at the World Cup.
So, is the MSL a boon or a bother to settling on a squad that could, finally, come home with a trophy?
“It’s a bit of both,” Zondi said. “It’s allowed us to see players who are in the gap between franchise and international level.
“Some of them had only played at provincial level before this. So to see them has given us an excellent opportunity to look at them thoroughly.
“It’s been slightly disappointing that a couple of our Proteas players haven’t come through, but the competition has certainly helped us as selectors.”
Does Zondi have to tell himself to remember the MSL is just a T20 tournament?
“Absolutely. That’s a challenge. I get calls from people saying, ‘There’s this laaitjie …’ Obviously it’s good for them to be doing well and the potential is there, but we mustn’t get carried away.”
The MSL deserves to dominate the national cricket conversation until next Sunday’s final. Then it’s time to get real.
World Cup materialAaron Phangiso, left, has the best economy rate among bowlers, while Rassie van der Dussen is the hardesthitting batsman in SA, with only three scoring more runs than him.