The underwhelming international marquee players added to the Mzansi Super League – and postponement of the Euro T20 Slam – are more awkward indications of an overloaded Twenty20 cricket calendar.
The Global T20 Canada was marred by player-payment disputes, and the St Lucia Stars were terminated from the Caribbean Premier League earlier this month. The future of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz, meanwhile, hangs in the balance.
The Indian Premier League continues to be impressive as a flagship product, while Australia’s Big Bash League is inhibited by salary-cap grievances. The Pakistan Super League and Bangladesh Premier League are ongoing, while the Afghanistan Premier League has Abu Dhabi’s T10 League as a relatively new neighbour.
In short, there is a lot of domestic T20 cricket jostling for commercial position on a global scale.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Jozi Stars’ retention of England’s Jason Roy and West Indian Chris Gayle, respectively, are major coups. The Paarl Rocks and Tshwane Spartans’ recruitment of England all-rounder David Willey and fast bowler Tom Curran, respectively, has been met with indifference. The Rocks’ Dwayne Bravo and Spartans’ Morgan were far more attractive arrivals in 2018.
The concept of a marquee player has lost substance amid an excess of T20 Leagues. The Cape Town Blitz will have ageing Pakistan seamer Wahab Riaz this year, while the Durban Heat have lost Afghanistan hotshot Rashid Khan for England discard Alex Hales.
Former Proteas and India coach Gary Kirsten’s decision to join the Heat, when other South African coaches are pursuing career and financial riches abroad, is a big boost for the appeal of the Mzansi Super League. Kirsten has worked with the Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and will be with the Cardiff-based team in The Hundred next year. Kirsten’s endorsement of the tournament isn’t just empty lip service. His global experience will benefit the franchise and, indeed, the MSL as a whole.
The MSL, remember, is effectively a second rendition of the defunct T20 Global League. The lessons from 2017’s failure to launch have been heeded. The tournament, importantly, and unlike the Euro T20 Slam and Global T20 Canada, is not organised by a private consortium. Cricket South Africa is in charge. And in a year that has brought CSA plenty of tribulation, the burgeoning success of the country’s premier domestic competition depends on wise decisions. Kirsten’s recruitment and Gayle’s retention are among these, but more are required to please the players and public.
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