Cape Town - The Mzansi Super League (MSL) is
ticking some boxes and missing others.
The positives? Young South African cricketers are
playing on an international stage for the first time, the game is finally being
taken to the South African masses via the SABC and, perhaps most importantly,
the quality of the cricket itself has been of a pleasingly high standard.
The negatives? Crowd numbers remain a concern, most
of the overseas players are available for only part of the tournament, there
are still serious question marks over the role of major sponsors and there are
some unavoidable and cringeworthy elements that come with the SABC
Most would agree on the above assessment of where
this product lands its punches, and indeed where it doesn't.
The fact is, however, that this tournament is now
off the ground despite South Africa being more than a decade late to the T20
In some ways, it is a small miracle that it is
happening at all given the embarrassment of the failed Global League of 2017
and the uncertainty that accompanied the MSL almost all the way up until the
first ball of the tournament was bowled on November 16.
Our chief writer, Rob Houwing, gave a
hard-hitting assessment of the quality of the MSL so far in a piece
entitled: Mzansi for sure? Maybe not so … on
It was a piece that I feel was needed.
Since the beginning of this tournament we have felt
an excitement, almost giddiness, coming from influential people in South
African cricket: media, organisers and administrators.
It is understandable, given that this is a new,
fresh product that has the potential to change the cricketing landscape in
It is vitally important that this tournament
succeeds, and anyone who cares about cricket wants it to, but there needs to be
an element of objectivity when assessing where the tournament is failing.
We cannot simply follow it blindly, punting the
product at every turn, blurring the line between fan and journalist in the
Haroon Lorgat has no problem pointing out the flaws
in the MSL and the former CSA CEO, in the nicest way possible, blasted the MSL
as an amateurish product in Houwing's piece.
Lorgat, of course, was the mastermind behind the
Global League. The failure of that tournament to get off the ground is
ultimately what cost Lorgat his job, and it left CSA in a world of trouble as
disgruntled franchise owners and contracted players sought significant
It is no surprise, then, that Lorgat is less than
complimentary when it comes to the new CSA leadership and the MSL.
He must, though, accept some accountability for the
journey up until here.
Under Lorgat, after millions were spent on the
tournament, the Global League had still not unveiled a broadcaster or a title
sponsor by the time the CSA board pulled the plug.
There were also reports of Lorgat having withheld
crucial information from CSA's Chief Financial Officer, Nassei Appiah.
Whether that is true or not - it depends who you
talk to - Lorgat, as the man in charge, must accept at least some (most?) of
the blame for the Global League bombing the way it did.
To label the MSL as "a second-grade
product" is surely not fair after just a few weeks.
Once the tournament is done, we can look back and
assess. In doing so, we must identify areas - and there are many - where
improvements are necessary, and we must hold CSA accountable.
Make no mistake, the success of this tournament is
potentially make-or-break for CSA and particularly CEO Thabang Moroe.
The decision to bin the Global League, rebrand, and
then go ahead with the MSL must be vindicated, and it will not be if there are
3 000 or 4 000 people attending matches.
The tournament needs bigger crowds than that.
We must be careful, though, of comparing the MSL to
more successful T20 leagues elsewhere.
The IPL is its own beast and no other competition
compares, but even the Big Bash has had seven editions to get to where it is
A title sponsor, a broadcast partner, a family
environment with all matches in holiday season, a traditional cricket
viewership and a thriving economy all contributed to fans streaming through the
gates when Australia launched its T20 cash cow.
How many of those boxes does the MSL tick?
At the moment, not many.
CSA will need to get through the rest of the 2018
edition unscathed, and then get to work immediately on plans for 2019.
There cannot be a situation where the marquee
international players are available for only a fraction of the competition.
There needs to be a lucrative title sponsor. There needs to be tangible growth
in crowd numbers.
Those are the very real challenges facing this
league. Let's not pretend that they don't exist, but let's make sure we give
CSA a chance to find ways around them.
Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former
Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...
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