Review Panel snag

South African cricket is heading towards exciting times on the field over the next 12 months with Test series against New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and then New Zealand again in the land of the Long White Cloud in March next year – not to mention a clutch of ODIs and a few T20s thrown in. It’s what’s happening off the field that we need to keep our eyes on.

Cricket South Africa did two very important and well-intentioned things a couple of months ago by establishing Review Committees, the first to investigate and report back on the repeated under-performance of the Proteas at world events and the second to suggest the best way to restructure the domestic game.

The second committee is large – 14 good men and true – and there are no passengers. Every member of the committee has a deep personal, perhaps even vested interest in seeing the national game strengthened and thriving. There appears to be common consensus that it needs expanding at the highest level – at Franchise level. The question is where to allocate two new Franchises.

Griquas felt so strongly about their credentials a decade ago that they were prepared to go to court to fight for their autonomy rather than merge with Free State. Border, too, can point to the wealth of talent being produced in the province. As can Boland. But Easterns and North West also believe they have the infrastructure, means and desire to run alone on Franchise matters.

Perhaps the answer lies outside the parameters of conventional thinking. When there were eleven provinces competing, they were happy in their independence and proud of their history. Even now, over a decade after the Franchisation of our cricket, lingering – even simmering – doubts remain.

How about returning every province to its former status? What about adding SWD which has made tremendous strides and now deserves to compete at a higher level. What about having 12 provinces compete in the first-class competition and make the Franchise concept real rather than impose it on provincial teas with no real idea what to do with it?

First-class cricket is a money-loser everywhere in the world, but we need it in order to have Test cricket. So why not limit the damage and play it at the best club grounds in the country? It costs between R40 and R60 thousand per day to play at Newlands and the Wanderers with a crowd of 400 people, on a good day. It would cost a fraction of that to play at Pirates or WPCC.

Then, why not follow the Australian model of eight T20 Franchises? Real Franchises with an open player auction? Two teams in Cape Town, two in Jo’brg, and one each in Centurion, Durban, PE and Bloem. In case you’re wondering why the proliferation of T20 leagues around the world is unabated, it is because it is the ONLY form of domestic cricket which makes money!

The Review committee into the Proteas, by the way, has disbanded. Francois Pienaar, Adam Bacher, Professor Ross Tucker and Dawn Mokhobo have walked the quiet walk. Too any limitations and restrictions, too little time and budget, apparently. It is a great pity. Cricket in South Africa would almost certainly have been better placed had they felt able to do the job to their specifications.Perhaps it can be revived. Let’s hope so.

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