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Bring on the Mzansi gimmick

Opinion
You know you’re getting on in age when gimmicks of just the other day suddenly mark a notable anniversary.

Where did the time go?

Somehow, we have already had 10 years of the Indian Premier League; 10 years of DLF this and Oppo that, and all manner of wacky commentary sound-bites designed to keep cricket’s Streetwise Two offering hot and happening.

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File Photo: Reuters

It was just the other day that the world looked on as this thing, this commercial behemoth of bright lights and glittering names, first surfaced, shaking up the cricket community.

Those who doubted its longevity can now see that it’s going nowhere. In fact, it has become such a priority in players’ lives that injury rehabilitations and surgeries are scheduled around it, and not the international calendar.

These dollars and crores and crores of easy rupees are impossible to resist, and cricketers are now earning packets that are hanging onto the coat-tails of most footballers - save for the uber stars of the world.

But cricket has its place on the consciousness, and every country wants a slice of the unapologetically loud pie that the IPL has put out.

Nothing will ever rival it, but Australia’s Big Bash, England’s offering, the CPL, the Dubai-based fare of Pakistan are all trying to find their own relevance.

It surprised some that Cricket South Africa took as long as they did to get on the bandwagon, but their league that launches in December sounds increasingly intriguing for those who are hired guns.

Only those partaking in the Ashes will miss the window, and you can be sure that the Windies will have a fair representation.

Watching the 10th edition of the IPL, it appears that Indian audiences are not nearly sated by their annual buffet just yet.

South Africa and the rest can replicate everything else, but that fanaticism is unique to India’s billion. They care deeply for cricket, and not much else when it comes to sport.

Our passions are split across several sporting codes, which immediately makes it unlikely for this country to hold a T20 tournament in the buxom cradle that India does.

But, if the organisers can find a way to make this inaugural event flavour of a packed December, the South African holiday period may suddenly look very enticing.

There is already the Cape Town Sevens, and the New Year’s Test, which have raucous atmospheres.

Get that at the cricket, and the torch paper could be lit, even if momentarily.

Of course, money will talk. That’s the IPL’s primary language. It is a lingo that has whispered sweet nothings into the diamond-studded ears of megastars, and they have been more than willing to hear it every year.

Ten years on, some early stars have become coaches or commentators. Indeed, very few have walked away completely.

South Africa will try to create that kind of longevity and loyalty. They are starting light years behind the IPL, but no one anticipated that we’d be sitting here, watching a 10th edition of India’s menagerie, which dwarfs the initial taster of 2008.

Bring on the Mzansi gimmick.

Sunday Independent

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