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How the Mzansi Super League can gain world fame 

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
585   //    31 Oct 2018, 21:15 IST

The six teams competing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa
The six teams competing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa

How has the Indian Premier League garnered global fame in a world filled with more and more T20 tournaments constantly blooming around the world? Well, there are many reasons. But, one reason is the presence of match-winning and entertaining cricketers participating in the IPL.

The magical performances from the likes of Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, AB de Villiers and Chris Morris have caught the imagination of fans around the world and have helped place the IPL on the top of the T20 tournament ladder.

Following the inaugural draft for the new South African T20 league – christened The Mzansi Super League (MSLT20) – some quality and experienced cricketers were picked. And the head honchos of the Mzansi Super League will hope that these cricketers can deliver performances which help propel the tournament close to the level that the IPL has achieved.

All-rounders are the most likely type of cricketers to deliver these performances because they can take wickets and smash sixes to delight the spectators. Therefore, the Jozi Stars may have made an inspired choice by drafting Australian all-rounder Daniel Christian. The 35-year-old has donned the jersey of four different Indian Premier League teams and has played for various other T20 teams around the world.

Therefore, his experience in the shortest format of the game could prove to be invaluable for the Stars because he has played with and against many different players, and no challenge will faze him.

Furthermore, Christian is certainly in good form - he smashed the second-fastest century in England’s T20 Blast history for defending champions Notts Outlaws in July this year. The Notts captain took 37 balls to reach three-figures against Northants.

Another explosive all-rounder in Albie Morkel will also add plenty of entertainment to the tournament. Morkel, who like Christian represented Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL, was surprisingly snubbed by the Tshwane Spartans. This was despite the fact that Morkel has played for the Tshwane-based Titans, a South African franchise, since 2004.

Although the man who has 58 One Day International caps for the Proteas is now 37 years of age, he is still an asset in T20 cricket with his ability to get the white ball to swing in the Powerplay and clear the boundary with ease.

However, Morkel’s lack of experience in bowling at the death led to the Spartans coach Mark Boucher turning his attention to other cricketers. “It would have been lovely to have Albie as well, but at that stage of the draft, we had two batsmen in AB de Villiers and [Eoin] Morgan, and Lungi Ngidi, so we wanted a death bowler. Albie has not done a lot of bowling recently and not at the death,” Boucher explained.

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Instead, Morkel was drafted by the Durban Heat, which has six cricketers who also play for the Durban-based franchise The Hollywoodbets Dolphins.

Cape Town Blitz seemed to follow Durban Heat’s approach by picking many local players in the draft. The Blitz roped in six cricketers who currently ply their trade for the Cape Cobras in Cape Town. This approach is a promising sign for the MSLT20 as having locally-born players will draw a lot of local cricket fans because they will be eager to support their local heroes.

Players with experience of playing in various T20 tournaments around the world will also add value to the MSLT20 because they know how to handle the pressure situations in the latter stages of a T20 game and what it takes to win matches in the format.

And Cape Town Blitz have certainly ticked this box as three former Royal Challengers Bangalore players are in their squad - Quinton de Kock, Dale Steyn and Samuel Badree. The three of them are not lacking experience in the shortest format of the game as they have played in a combined total of 136 IPL matches.

Royal Challengers Bangalore also had Tabraiz Shamsi in their armoury for the 2016 edition of the IPL and the chinaman bowler was snapped up by the Paarl Rocks for this year’s MSLT20. And if Shamsi can be as successful as fellow chinaman Brad Hogg has been in the IPL then the Blitz would have made an excellent acquisition. Hogg has an economy rate of 7.47 and has taken 23 wickets at an average of 24.78 in his 23 IPL matches – impressive stats for a spinner in T20s full of hard-hitting batsmen.

Like rocks are solid, The Paarl Rocks have a lot of solid batsmen with good techniques but seem to be lacking an explosive batsman like a Gayle, De Villiers, Miller or Jonker.

Christiaan Jonker was recruited by the nostalgically named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants. This name pays homage to the role Mandela, the former President of South Africa, played in the country’s cricket history. South Africa was not supposed to play in the 1992 World Cup but it was Mandela’s memorable contribution that changed things.

In a press conference, Mandela said: “Of course, we must play [in the 1992 World Cup]” and his message immediately went around the world of cricket. The International Cricket Council was contacted, and eight extra matches were scheduled for South Africa, who remarkably reached the semi-final.

And in appreciating Mandela’s legacy, The Giants have a diverse range of players in terms of their ages in its squad - just like Mandela was diverse in terms of being an African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist in his life. Jon-Jon Smuts, Junior Dala and Christiaan Jonker are the recently first-time capped Proteas in the Giants squad, which also includes some experienced older heads in Aaron Phangiso, Ryan McLaren and Heino Kuhn.

Players with the T20 experience and all-round abilities of Daniel Christian and Ryan McLaren could help elevate The Mzansi Super League to prominence around the world.

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