LEAGUE OPENS A LOT OF MZANSI EYES TO CRICKET

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA [email protected]

WE ARE in the last week of the Mzansi Super League. The whole thing may fin­ish where it started, un­der Ta­ble Moun­tain.

That is fit­ting in it­self, be­cause that would com­plete a per­fect cir­cle. There has been a lot said and writ­ten about this new tour­na­ment, from how it has been or­gan­ised, how it has been broad­cast, and how it has been re­ceived.

What­ever the opin­ions, one thing is ab­so­lutely clear. This was needed by lo­cal cricket. It’s about time, even if it was African time.

You only have to go and speak to play­ers who have made tem­po­rary homes around the coun­try, learn­ing new crick­et­ing cul­tures, to un­der­stand how sig­nif­i­cant the breath of fresh air has been to the peo­ple who truly mat­ter.

We are at least a decade be­hind sched­ule, but we have got there even­tu­ally. That is im­por­tant, be­cause there is at least some­thing to build on from here.

Amongst sev­eral con­cerns, the big­gest must be the crowds. There was at­mos­phere, but cer­tainly not the full houses we might have hoped for. It is in­struc­tive to re­mem­ber that a new brand takes time to weed it­self in, even if its bright­est buds are some of the big­gest names in the world.

Spar­tans, Rocks and Heat are all new things to a con­science deal­ing with load­shed­ding, ex­pro­pri­a­tion and the Rand and the land.

They will take time to roll off the tongue, never mind mo­bilise en­tire com­mu­ni­ties to beat proudly for them.

The IPL, cricket’s eter­nal Rome, was not built in one tour­na­ment. It took a few, fal­ter­ing edi­tions to turn it into the jug­ger­naut it is. The same ap­plies for the seven-year old Big Bash, proudly spon­sored by the Street­wise Two team.

These things took time to get to the el­e­vated stage they are at. And they also took balls.

CSA need some big balls now, hav­ing bro­ken the ground in 2018.

The first point of or­der is to do away with the De­cem­ber 16 fi­nal. It is too soon in the South African hol­i­day sea­son, and robs many po­ten­tial fans the chance to flock to the sta­di­ums.

Only now, as schools close and busi­nesses wind down, can we re­ally gauge how keen South Africa is to em­brace this thing.

Had it started now, in early De­cem­ber, the num­bers at­tend­ing and tun­ing in might have been a lot more sig­nif­i­cant. It is a re­al­ity CSA needs to con­front.

The sched­ule has been de­signed in a man­ner that doesn’t step on the road of the Big Bash, so play­ers can pos­si­bly play in both.

We can­not be so diplo­matic. The Big Bash makes no apolo­gies for run­ning right through the prime sum­mer win­dow, when most of the pub­lic has time and money on their hands.

Those two vari­ables are the most piv­otal cur­rency in de­ter­min­ing if the Mzansi Super League can be sus­tain­able.

It has to be held at a time when time and money are avail­able to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. Thus, this thing has to start deeper into De­cem­ber, and al­low more South Africans the op­por­tu­nity to em­brace it.

If that irks our friends Down Un­der, so be it. Apolo­gies and com­pro­mises don’t pay the bills at the end of the day.

The broad­cast deal will also be a bone of con­tention, be­cause the first edi­tion has been ac­ces­si­ble to all. It might not be as pol­ished as some Wool­worths taste buds may pre­fer, but more eyes have set upon new names and faces than ever in do­mes­tic South African cricket.

That mat­ters, too.

It has been far from per­fect, but it has hap­pened, and it will be back. That is im­por­tant, be­cause this could be the life­line that the game needs.

More Nortjés, more Hen­dricks and more Si­pam­las and more For­tu­ins. It is im­per­a­tive.

Roll on 2019.

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