Mzansi Super League finally underway
After a 2017 cancellation of the inaugural series, numerous difficulties in locking down a broadcaster, the absence of a primary sponsor and with several marquee players missing, the Mzansi Super League is finally ready to kick off in South Africa. The domestic T20 league has suffered from many road blocks prior to its commencement, but on 16 November finally got underway. The tournament will run for one month in total.
Evidently, things still aren’t perfectly in place for the event, and Cricket South Africa have subsequently budgeted for a loss of R40 million, or a little under US$3 million. The broadcaster, SABC, is suffering from various financial difficulties of its own and likely isn’t able to afford a significant sum for the right, but it is expected that the free to air broadcast will play a role in boosting public popularity of the event.
Numerous players who have signed with a team are also absent for the start of the problem, another relatively significant problem, but they will gradually be filtering into the tournament and increasing its quality. The likes of talented Afghanistan leg spinner Rashid Khan, as well as English batsman Jason Roy, are currently in the midst of a 10-over league in Abu Dhabi that they had previously committed to, but will be able to join the tournament later. Likewise, international South African players like Quinton de Kock and Farhaan Behardien, are still with the national team in Australia and will miss the very early stages of the tournament, but they too will soon join the fray.
There are, however, still numerous marquee players involved in the tournament who are present for the earlier stages, none more high profile than former national superstar and one of the best limited overs batsmen in the history of the game, AB de Villiers. De Villiers, who will captain the Tshwane Spartans, has already highlighted why he will have such an impact on drawing fans to the league, scoring 59 in his teams first outing - despite them being bowled out for 131. The 59 came off just 30 deliveries, and included five 6’s and three 4’s.
Cape Town Blitz captain Dawid Malan, of England, is also a destructive batsman, and despite making just five runs in his debut innings for the team in the same game as de Villiers put up 59, has the ability to bring plenty of supporters through the gate himself - he scored 85 off just 54 balls in the lead up to the tournament in a match against the Paarl Rocks.
In total, the first season will see six teams play a total of 32 matches. The final, which is set to be held on December 16, will involve the team which finishes on top of the table, as well as the winner of a playoff between the second and third teams at the end of the round-robin format regular season.
MSL organisers are no doubt aware of the hurdles they face and the imperfections evident in the first season of the league. They have, however, found a rare slot in the season in which many players around the world are available, and have already secured numerous high quality players - even if a majority of them are South African. Whether the league will ultimately take-off and be able to lure greater depth of quality players in the future remains to be seen, but with the likes of de Villiers involved there is certainly a reason to watch.