Cricket world watches with interest

It may be hyperbole to suggest the ‘cricket playing world’ has its eyes on South Africa this week but it is certainly true that administrators, marketers, advertisers, broadcasters and many of the top players in the world – and every professional here – are watching T20 developments with a keen eye.

In some cases it is no more than rubber-necking, furtive glances to see how bad the crash will be compared to the horror of the Global League’s implosion. There are some with genuine hope but they are not putting their optimism on public display – far too risky.

It is 56 days until the first game is scheduled. We have no teams, squads, fixtures or sponsors – and no broadcaster. Cricket South Africa and Supersport have fallen out so badly they haven’t spoken to each other for over a month.

Instead, negotiations between CSA and the SABC have been taking place for over 10 days. A free-to-air platform will do wonders for growing the game and its following, and strongly appeals to CSA for that reason. But the national broadcaster is broke, right? Yes – but a decision by the Treasury to allow the SABC to seek loans from capital markets might just make it a viable option.
Meanwhile, three of the Global League franchise owners confirmed their intention to file an interdict to prevent the start of a new league – and to sue for damages and compensation.

Having calculated its last four-year budget cycle at an exchange rate of 11:1 against the dollar (in which the vast majority of its revenue is paid) CSA have done rather well out of the rand’s recent stumble and may be prepared to wear a first year hit in the region of R60 million.

But they need marquee players to attract sponsors, and they need sponsors to attract big name players, and they aren’t the only chickens and eggs they need to put in the right order.

One snag is the second edition of the Dubai T10 League. (For those of you just emerging from a year in a nuclear submarine, yes – it really is a thing.) It will be played between November 23 and December 3, right in the middle of SA’s mysterious new league. So how attractive can T10 cricket really be? The player draft is yet to be completed, but they’ve picked up some useful names so far:
Shane Watson, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Eion Morgan, Kieron Pollard, Alex Hayles, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Brendon McCullum, Chris Lynn, Colin Ingram, Rilee Rossouw, Rashid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Jofra Archer, Colin de Grandhomme, Ben Laughlin, James Faulkner, David Willey! not sure there are too many big names left.

The best thing CSA could have done was to start working on their new league at the start of the year. Having prevaricated for months and turned down an offer of $70million over 11 years for a 50% stake in the league, the second best thing they could have done was committed to starting it – next year.

The third best thing they can do is provide those of us who work in the international game with paper bags to wear over our heads if and when this league fails to materialise as well.

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David Miller slipped quietly off the red ball radar this week opting to concentrate on limited overs cricket and, specifically, the World Cup next year. He is 29 years old and does not bowl so clearly this wasn’t a workload issue.

Miller has for years made no secret of his desire to win a Test cap – it was one of the reasons he moved from the Dolphins to the Knights, a guaranteed opportunity up the order on good batting pitches at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.  So what changed?

A couple of weeks ago Miller was announced as an ‘icon’ player in the UAE’s inaugural T20X League which will be played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi between December 19 and January 11, bang in the middle of South Africa’s domestic first-class season. (The one that was called the Sunfoil Series until they ended their sponsorship this year.)

In order to be able to play in the UAE, and collect the generous fee, he had no choice but to retire from the four-day game. “It was a tough decision to make,” he said, but it was made a little easier after private conversations with the selectors in which he was told that Test cricket had, in all likelihood, passed him by after 109 ODIs.

Miller’s decision was pragmatic and financially sensible. It also sets another important precedent as more and more players head towards freelance careers in which they are not beholden to long-term contracts.

CSA Chief Executive, Thabang Moroe, inadvertently confirmed this when he said: “He has time on his hands to resume his first-class career in due course and I sincerely hope that we have not seen the last of him in red ball cricket where he has shown his undeniable talents in the past.”

So the next time a Proteas ‘icon’ player is made an overseas, dollar-based offer he can’t reasonably refuse, all he has to do is retire from whatever format of the game is being played in South Africa at the time and then ‘unretire’ afterwards.

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