JOHANNESBURG – As a self-styled T20 “gun for hire”, Dan Christian knows plenty of eyes will be on him when he dons the black and yellow of the Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League, but they are expectations he has learned to live with.
The 35-year-old Australian all-rounder has vast experience in the T20 format – 246 matches in various leagues around the world – and says rather than be apprehensive about the start of the MSL, which has been beset by problems, South Africans will grow to love the tournament.
“When the (Big Bash League in Australia) started eight years ago, as players we were quite reluctant at the time, going from the State system in which we played all our four-day and one-day cricket... to a city-based franchise set-up.
“We were a touch reluctant and just wary of the unknown; we didn’t know how it was going to go,” Christian said at the Wanderers this week.
“But then from the first game, we were getting packed houses and huge numbers on TV watching, and that competition has just gone from strength to strength.”
It might be a bit much to ask that South Africans get as enthused initially. The economy is weak, and even though Cricket SA has dropped ticket prices to as low as R25 for some venues, it might be hard for many to afford.
The product itself will be important, and Christian explained that based on the players who’ve been drafted, the entertainment factor will prove attractive.
“The first few games it might be (slow), and then the crowds will gradually build up. And by the end of the tournament, I’d say there is going to be a lot of excitement about it.
“There are some fantastic players in our team and world-class, brilliant players in the competition. I think it will be a really good standard, and the cricket will come to the fore.”
A month-long schedule will help maintain everyone’s interest and from a playing perspective, Christian said there were benefits to a shortened schedule.
“One of the great things about having short turnarounds between games is that you don’t have too much time to dwell on performances.
“You want to try and get some momentum early, be it with bat or ball or as a team, and when you are out there, you don’t have much time to get over the losses.”
As one of just two Australian players in the MSL – Michael Klinger signed for the Paarl Rocks this week – Christian is expecting there’ll be a few reminders from crowds about his countrymen’s misdeeds in South Africa earlier this year.
“I’m sure there’ll be a couple of chirps from the odd person in the crowd; that’s part and parcel of travelling around the world... it all makes for good fun.”
The Stars open their campaign at the Wanderers on Saturday with a match against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants.
The Stars will have marquee overseas signing Chris Gayle available for that match, before he heads to Dubai for the T10 tournament.
Gayle and most of the international marquee players will be available again for the MSL from the first week of December.
Meanwhile, the Stars are awaiting a medical update on seam bowler Alfred Mothoa, who was injured in a collision last weekend.@shockerhess