Cricket supporters watch as the covers are put on to the wicket at Kingsmead stadium in Durban. File photo:: REUTERS
Cricket supporters watch as the covers are put on to the wicket at Kingsmead stadium in Durban. File photo:: REUTERS

It is poorly timed‚ ill conceived‚ and a shocking waste of money‚ but‚ like it or not‚ it is here: the second edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) will be on a screen near you on Friday.

If you are within reach of the Wanderers you might be of a mind to see‚ in the flesh‚ Dale Steyn of the Cape Town Blitz let fly at the Jozi Stars’ Chris Gayle in the opening match.

Should Kingsmead be on your radar on Saturday‚ you could watch AB de Villiers of the Tshwane Spartans taking on the Durban Heat’s Kyle Abbott.

Sunday offers a double-header that could feature the Paarl Rocks’ Faf du Plessis testing his mettle against former teammate Steyn‚ and Gayle being made to look silly by the Nelson Mandela Giants’ Imran Tahir.

And that is as far as we can responsibly go in trying to put lipstick on this pig.

Until the final on December 16‚ the fact that what the game in SA needs now is as much first-class cricket as can be crammed into the schedule before the Test series against England starts on December 26 will be ignored.

As will the truth that cricket can do without still another interminable few weeks of T20 confection featuring the same stale cast of characters.

Along with the worry that Cricket SA would‚ probably‚ find a way to make a loss selling water in the desert — much less turn a profit from a tournament that has nothing going for it in terms of major sponsors and profitable broadcast deals.

But at least SA’s leading players‚ still smarting from their 3-0 thrashing in the Test series in India in October‚ will be able to have a hit and giggle.

“People probably don’t understand the burden you carry [as an international player]‚ and when it doesn’t go the way you would like it weighs heavily on you‚” Du Plessis‚ who as captain presided over that lowlight in SA’s cricket history‚ told reporters in Paarl on Wednesday.

“I feel like all the national players can go back and chill‚ hit a few sixes and realise again why you love playing the sport you play.”

As captain of the Rocks‚ Du Plessis no doubt has to keep telling himself that kind of thing to get through the next few weeks with his wits intact enough to lead SA against the English.

But for those free to regard the competition more critically‚ the tournament will remind SA cricket just how much talent has drained out of the game in recent years.

MSL players Abbott‚ Simon Harmer‚ Duanne Olivier‚ Heino Kuhn and Hardus Viljoen were all capped by SA but are now unavailable for the national team‚ and there are more where they came from.

It is thus valuable that Mark Boucher‚ the Tshwane Spartans coach‚ has made himself heard above the MSL’s bells and whistles by strongly making the point that the tournament will not fix what is wrong with cricket in SA.

Boucher’s career in straight talk started 19 years ago when he told the King commission what he thought of Hansie Cronjé’s corruption.

Much has since changed‚ but not this: a pig‚ with or without lipstick‚ is still a pig.