MSL? Nah‚ say fans as they tell the taxi to go elsewhere
The Mzansi Super league needs more aggressive marketing and crowd-pulling matches
A crowd of 5,500‚ five scores in the 80s‚ three bowlers who have half-a-dozen wickets each‚ another three who are conceding less than a run-a-ball after three games‚ seven who have claimed three scalps in a match.
Five totals of more than 180 — one past 200 — two matches decided by fewer than 20 runs‚ another in the last over‚ and‚ not before time‚ the weather does not get in the way of a game in Durban.
But not all the news from the first 10 matches of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) has been good. It has taken that many games‚ three of them washed out‚ to finally get more than 5,000 people in the ground. There they were‚ in all their purple glory‚ for the Paarl Rocks’ home game against the Tshwane Spartans on Sunday.
Vast swathes of empty seats and stands has been the unhappy constant for most of the tournament so far: if it’s a MSL game‚ tell the taxi to go somewhere else. Credit‚ then‚ to Rocks captain Faf du Plessis for not trying to duck the truth at his media conference in Paarl after Sunday’s match.
“It is disappointing when you look around the country; there are not a hell of a lot of supporters‚” Du Plessis said. “We’ve got to make sure everyone puts in the time and effort to market this tournament as much as possible. It’s really important for cricket in SA that this tournament succeeds‚ so whatever we can do to get the fans in.”
Sunday’s match was the sort of tight contest the competition needs if it is to earn the attention of more eyeballs‚ whether at the ground or on SABC screens. The Spartans chased down the Rocks’ 185/6 with eight wickets standing but only five balls to spare and with Dean Elgar’s unbeaten 84 taking them home.
The required run-rate was in double figures for seven of the last 11 overs‚ and it needed Heinrich Klaasen to smash sixes off the last two balls of the penultimate over — bowled by seamer Kerwin Mungroo — to draw the sting from the contest.
Elgar had it damn straight when he said: “You need to play good cricket for people to come out and watch. People don’t want to watch average cricket.”
That has not been the case often enough. In Paarl last Sunday, the home side dismissed the Cape Town Blitz for 84 to win by 86 runs‚ and it does not help that the most uncompetitive side are also the defending champions.
The Jozi Stars‚ the 2018 winners‚ have played four‚ lost four — one‚ to the Blitz at Newlands on Thursday‚ by 57 runs‚ another‚ to the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants at the Wanderers on Saturday‚ by nine wickets with 65 balls remaining.
The Stars’ cause is not aided by the fact that the country’s most prominent bowler Kagiso Rabada is not firing. Rabada has taken 3/132 from 15 overs for the tournament‚ and is 23rd on the list of economy rates‚ 30th in the averages and 31st in terms of strike rate.
It is a similarly sad story for another of the Stars’ non-stars‚ the self-proclaimed “universe boss”. Chris Gayle has looked like nothing more than the 40-year-old he is‚ playing the 20-year-old’s game that is T20 cricket for his return of 46 runs from four innings. In all, 19 players have scored more runs than him — 10 of them in fewer trips to the crease — and 39 efforts have been higher than his best of 18.
Gayle is being shown up by Jozi teammates Reeza Hendricks and Temba Bavuma‚ whose aggregates of 161 and 160 mean they are‚ weirdly considering their side’s fortunes‚ the MSL’s highest run-scorers.
The disciplined‚ aggressive Junior Dala looked the business for the Giants against the Stars on Saturday for his haul of 3/19‚ which — with his average of 10.16‚ economy rate of 6.77 and strike rate of 9.0 — has made him the competition’s leading bowler.
Most impressively of all‚ after two washouts in Durban rain managed to stay away from Kingsmead long enough for all 40 overs to be bowled for the Heat’s game against the Blitz on Sunday. Alas‚ for the long-suffering home crowd‚ the Blitz won by 10 runs.
Welcome‚ Durbanites‚ to the reality of the MSL — overrated and underwhelming.