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South Africa and the Mzansi Super League


AB_de_Villiers_Kagiso_Rabada_Faf_du_Plessis_South_Africa_CricketAfter the failure to launch of South Africa’s high profile ‘international’ T20 league in 2017, take two of this plan is officially poised for takeoff.

It has been boldly dubbed the Mzansi Super League, and it really is a reminder of where South African cricket (and the country in general actually) is at nowadays.

Let’s be honest, things aren’t what they used to be down south. Sure, they are still pretty handy at home in Tests. This year they embarrassed the Aussies in a controversial Test series and did the necessary to beat Virat Kohli after that. But hope is not springing eternal, so to speak, for the future of this country as we knew it in the game, both on and off the field.

AB de Villiers officially ended his international career, playing spin still seems like something that will never happen, and the fallout of Haroon Lorgat suddenly departing the helm of Cricket South Africa still leaves many unanswered questions. There are growing questions around the strength of the domestic game, if enough is being done to truly develop the game across the country. And of course there is the politics in general, which is engrained in the sport at every step of the way.

Sure, there are some positives such as the recent ODI series win in Australia, but let’s be honest, beating the Aussies ain’t what it used be.

So what kind of a T20 league can they possibly produce? Well, the one they are about to of course.

The Mzansi Super League is the result of the ‘postponed’ T20 Global League, which was hyped up to be something special, but ultimately fell to pieces a month prior to the opening match last year.

This was mostly down to the fact that there wasn’t a broadcast deal in place. But there were also widespread reports of the foreign franchise owners and existing South African cricket franchise hosts struggling to work together. Of course, we will never really know the full story of what was happening behind the scenes, or indeed why the man in charge of it all (Lorgat) was suddenly out of the picture all together as a result of the tournament’s failure.

But all this has happened and the dream of the 8-team T20 Global League, and teams like the Benoni Zalmi, the Durban Qalanders and Cape Town Knight Riders competing in it, is long over.

Back to the now then, and back to the Mzansi Super League. There will be 6 teams, playing out of the cricketing cities of Pretoria (Spartans), Johannesburg (Stars), Durban (Heat), Nelson Mandela Bay (Giants), Paarl (Rocks) and Cape Town (Blitz).

A quick look at the quality of the team’s logos would suggest they have been hastily put together, and without a lot of money. There are no high profile foreign investors here, and the big names selling it are just the Proteas stars, with a handful of international sluggers.

It will take place from the 16th of November until the 16th of December, and the general response from the South African cricketing audience has been a predictably lukewarm one.

But as I mentioned earlier, this is as good as it can possibly get right now though for a South African T20 league. And the supporters of the game in the country should be grateful it is taking place at all.

Financially, the tournament is a complete disaster. Though it does now have a broadcast partner in the form of the national broadcaster, the SABC, that institution is rotten to the core and essentially bankrupt in every sense of the word. There are no major sponsors floating around either, and even if there were, starting a new league like this costs a lot of cash.

Cricket South Africa is sitting on some cash, mostly from the recent Indian tour to the country, but a fair stack of it will now be used to get this tournament going.

Therefore, rather than knocking a T20 league that is naturally light years behind the big global T20 leagues, the Mzansi Super League should be treated with an appropriate deal of respect.

South Africa as a country is in recession right now. Add to that the general political dissatisfaction and uncertainty mounting around issues like growing socialism and corruption in the government, widespread inequality, escalating crime, unemployment and petrol prices, the Mzansi Super League is actually nothing short of a miracle.

Something to consider then, along with which team you are going to support. I’m backing the Jozi Stars, and I will be heading out to the Wanderers Stadium to catch some of the games.

Who knows, if all South Africans adopt the same mindset, perhaps the Mzansi Super League could become something to be really proud of in years to come. Bringing big money and big players to the shores of a country that really should be a big player in the world of cricket.

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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