Cape Town - The draft for the second edition of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) Mzansi Super League (MSL) took place in Soweto on Tuesday.
It is a product that CSA desperately needs to work, given the organisation's current financial predicament and the fact that this is the same CSA leadership that pulled the plug on the proposed T20 Global League in 2017 under then-CEO Haroon Lorgat.
The 2018 edition of the MSL was very hit and miss.
The quality of the cricket on offer was impressive given the limited offering of overseas superstars, but crowd numbers at stadiums throughout the tournament proved to be a challenge and it is one that will remain in 2019.
The absence of a title sponsor and a lucrative broadcast deal also hurt the inaugural showpiece, with those rights given to the cash-strapped SABC.
That, too, will be the case once more in 2019 with the positive spin-off that the game and product will again be on free-to-air television.
After watching the live stream of the draft on the official MSL YouTube channel on Tuesday, we now have a better idea of exactly what the 2019 tournament will look like.
Here are some of the high and low points to have emerged after the draft.
It is crucially important that the MSL continues to enjoy the support of the country's biggest names, and it seems to have done that for the second year running. Each South African marquee player will pocket R1.2 million for his participation, while every big name in the country currently was picked up. Hashim Amla is the exception, but he removed himself from consideration on the morning of the draft. It was also pleasing to see the Proteas present, including current team director Enoch Nkwe.
The addition of Gary Kirsten to the MSL as coach of the Durban Heat is massive. If the tournament is going to eventually attract the biggest names in the world, they will want to work with the best coaches in the world and Kirsten is one of them. Mark Boucher (Tshwane Spartans) and Ashwell Prince (Cape Town Blitz) are considered the two best local coaches currently and having them involved is important. It was also pleasing to see Geoffrey Toyana operating as the coach of the Paarl Rocks. His experience is vast and having him back at the highest level is encouraging. Eric Simons' (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) credentials are also proven while West Indian Donovan Miller (Jozi Stars) brings a new, fresh approach.
It is one of those awkward conversations between CSA and the media who hold them accountable, but the MSL organisers can be pleased with the interest shown by South African cricket media on Tuesday. The draft became a trending topic on Twitter, with the country's cricket journalists actively engaging. Special mention needs to be made of the SABC's Kass Naidoo, who showed her class once more by almost carrying the live stream by herself. She was often asked to speak on some of the lesser known players in the draft, but her research was sound and she was as good an advertisement for the tournament as anything else we saw on the day.
The MSL boasts the likes of Chris Gayle, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Dan Christian, Wahab Riaz, Ravi Bopara, Tom Curran, Asif Ali and Isuru Udana, but the absence the world's biggest names remains an issue. These are all quality cricketers and they will offer a lot, but the tournament needs more if it is to become the world class product CSA wants and needs it to be. Where the tournament falls on the global calendar is one issue, while how much CSA can afford to pay its marquee players is another.
Key SA players miss out
This was perhaps the lowest point of the draft. Robbie Frylinck, Andrew Birch, Rory Kleinveldt, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Senuran Muthusamy, Ghihan Cloete, Kyle Verreyne and Christiaan Jonker all went unpicked. The first three players on that list might be understandable given where they are in their careers, but all of the others have been done no service by not being included.
Paterson (30) has been in the Proteas mix for the last couple of years, Piedt is in the Proteas squad going to India for three Tests in October as is Muthusamy, Cloete (26) has two T20Is to his name and was superb in the 2018 edition, Kyle Verreyne (22) is considered a future Protea while Christiaan Jonker (32) made his ODI and T20I debuts as recently as last year.
There is also no space for any of the current crop of SA U-19 players.
This tournament, more than simply being a way for CSA to generate profit, was billed as a way of keeping the best players in the country committed to playing their cricket in South Africa.
What message does it send to these players when a tournament that is barely off the ground and is being staged on their home soil has no space for them?
Players may have set their base price too high in this regard, resulting in them being overlooked, but that is surely an issue that can be resolved to ensure that the brightest cricketers in the country are part of CSA's flagship event.