CAPE TOWN – High noon has finally arrived. Or, in this case, the strange starting time of 7pm.
The Mzansi Super League has lift-off! There were many who believed they would never see this day. Not quite as substantial as 27 April 1994, but in cricket terms in this country, it certainly is a rebirth.
A T20 league worthy of competing with all the others around the world. For some of the players it is “five years too late”, while many still believe it is being rushed.
Regardless, the first match between the Cape Town Blitz and Tshwane Spartans is ready to get under way.
Even the SABC broadcasting trucks are in place, and the cables have been laid ready to take “the gentleman’s game” into the homes of the masses.
All of this will mean not a jolt if the players on show – all decked out in brightly coloured new outfits – don’t exhibit the sort of skills that have made leagues such as the Indian Premier League, Big Bash, the Caribbean Premier League and others such a hit with the audience.
How the MSL will be crying out for a breakout performance that New Zealand maverick Brendon McCullum produced in the IPL opener for the Kolkata Knight Riders, when he smashed 158 on a steaming night in Bangalore all those years ago.
And the Spartans have just the man to do it. AB de Villiers may have retired from international cricket, but he remains the “bums-on-seats” cricketer that T20 Leagues build their empires on.
De Villiers is certainly up for the task and ready to entertain the Newlands faithful once more against the Cape Town Blitz on Friday night.
“I love playing at Newlands. And we start off playing against a Cape Town team. It’s the old foes. North versus South. I have really good memories playing at Newlands, and hopefully that won’t stop now,” De Villiers said at the tournament’s official launch at the V&A Waterfront on Thursday.
“I have taken the mindset of just enjoying my game. I am hitting the ball almost better than ever.
“I am just looking forward to having some fun. There are some world-class players from around the world in this tournament, and I am really excited for it all to start.”
Tournaments like these, though, are prone to throw up a youngster that steals the show.
Think Swapnil Asnodkar, who took the maiden IPL by storm at the top-of-the-order with then-Proteas captain Graeme Smith for the Rajasthan Royals.
The Blitz have an abundance of youthful talent ready to be unleashed.
With the ball, Anrich Nortjé is champing at the bit to let rip, while all-rounder Jason Smith, wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne and opener Janneman Malan are all free wielders of the willow.
“It is a new tournament. It is a new stage for players to express their talents on. As a player, everybody would want to be involved in the opening game.
“It is a great opportunity for a young player to go out there and blitz it – pun intended – and the nature of T20 cricket is that you don’t know what to expect,” Blitz coach Ashwell Prince said.
“We’re playing the Spartans. AB obviously plays for the Spartans and all the focus will be on AB.
“But the whole world knows what AB can do – maybe it is the opportunity for a young guy to show what he can do.”@ZaahierAdams