LEAGUE OPENS A LOT OF MZANSI EYES TO CRICKET
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.