Cricket SA deserve benefit of doubt as Mzansi Super League looms

The cricket-minded folk of Bloemfontein and Kimberley weren’t happy when they discovered last month that their bid for a franchise in the Mzansi Super League (MSL) hadn’t been successful‚ and they remain in a huff.

“I’d love to compare our criteria with Paarl’s‚” one of them said grumpily.

He has a point.

Are Cricket South Africa (CSA) telling people who don’t live on the coast or on the Highveld that the shiny new tournament is not for them?

Probably not.

But they are likely to be looking for ways to stop the financial bleeding that‚ by CSA’s own estimation‚ will mean R40m in losses in the competition’s first year alone.

Accommodating players in one hotel for their matches in Johannesburg and Centurion‚ and in another for games in Cape Town and Paarl — and consequently not having to put them on planes as often — are ways to do that.

All of which is at odds with a statement that materialised from the ether late on Wednesday afternoon.

It was billed as emanating from the Central Region but — and it could be a big but — released by Cricket South Africa (CSA).

“Central Cricket Region congratulates CSA and [the] South African Broadcasting Commission on a successful player draft event and wishes them the best of luck for the tournament ahead‚” the statement began‚ suggesting all the sincerity of a prisoner in North Korea reading a coerced confession into a television camera.

“Though the Central Region was not awarded a team to host for the inaugural MSL T20 they are proud to see cricket in South Africa progressing.”

Then came the obligatory quotes‚ the first attributed to Central’s president Zola Thamae: “It is great and wonderful news that CSA managed to bag this deal with the SABC. It is exciting that the MSL T20 will be accessible to the whole of South Africa. We are excited for this partnership and we are positive it will yield good results.”

Next up was Johan van Heerden‚ Central’s chief executive: “We are proud of our Knights players who have been selected to be in teams for the MSL T20. We are positive they will represent Central Region well in their various teams and prove to the world that cricket is alive in the Central Region.”

Those players‚ spread among the Jozi Stars‚ the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and the Paarl Rocks‚ are Eddie Leie‚ Ryan McLaren‚ Pite van Biljon‚ Duanne Olivier‚ Rudi Second and Patrick Kruger.

That’s more than half a decent team‚ which illustrates why cricket fans in Bloemfontein and Kimberley are pissed off.

Not for the first time and probably not the last‚ big time sport has taken much and given little to the Free State.

The Sharks’ dressing room used to resound with so much of a particular flavour of Afrikaans that the team were nicknamed “Free State C” — only when they lost‚ of course.

But the fact that the region’s resources are again being mined tells us CSA are serious about making a success of the MSL.

Given quality players‚ good venues and competent management in all areas‚ what could go wrong?

Two of those factors are assured.

The third has been in doubt for months‚ if not years‚ but in recent days CSA have offered promising evidence to the contrary in the shape of swift‚ slick organisation.

No-one knows whether they will be able to pull this thing off‚ and plenty could go askew before a batsman takes guard on November 16.

But CSA have earned the right not to have their work towards the tournament second-guessed.

Despite everything South Africans are looking forward to the MSL.

Even those in Bloemfontein and Kimberley.

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