DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 19: Sunil Narine during the Ram Slam T20 Challenge match between Sunfoil Dolphins and Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on January 19, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images)

Johannesburg – What is the value of overseas professionals?

It’s a question the franchises have been battling with for most of the last decade. On one side a marquee name can certainly attract attention and put bums on seats, on the other, there’s expense incurred for having to pay a big-name a hefty salary and the fact that it also, potentially, blocks a spot that might be utilised for an up-and-coming young local player.

Cricket SA have ruled that franchises are allowed two overseas professionals, however, this season only the Highveld Lions have utilised the option – Azhar Mahmood and Sohail Tanvir.

The one major marquee name on the books of the Dolphins, Chris Gayle, for the second time failed to get to Durban, due to injury. Meanwhile, the Titans and Cobras signed up the two best limited overs spinners in the world, and their duel at Newlands on Wednesday ensured a healthy crowd (for a league game at least) of around 8000.

The value that Sunil Narine (Cobras) and Saeed Ajmal (Titans) add to their respective sides was clear for all to see. Ajmal picked up 3/21, immediately adding punch to a Titans attack that has lacked an X-factor throughout the competition. Narine has done the same for an already powerful Cobras team, and the trickery and control he provided saw them defend a modest target of 130.

The bigger picture as far as the RamSlam T20 Challenge is concerned is the qualification for the Champions League T20, which is a lucrative prize for domestic franchises, most of whom struggle to make ends meet. The Cobras have been desperately disappointed by their inability to make the CLT20 tournament for the last two seasons – hence the decision to contract Narine. He’s certainly made an impact in the three matches he’s played – an economy rate of 5.41 and five wickets – and has seen the Cobras pull away from the rest.

Meanwhile at the Lions, the opposite has taken place with their overseas pros. Tanvir hasn’t made the kind of impact he had in his first two seasons with the side, while Mahmood, who was on a six-game contract – and is now going home – was a disappointment, making an impact with neither bat nor ball. Whether their struggles are down to the upheaval that’s occurred in the Lions dressing room in the last fortnight, is hard to say.

The Lions have been poor this season, and all that’s left for them now in their last four matches is to play “spoilsport” to those above them, starting with the Knights in Potchefstroom this evening.


Friday (start 6pm) – Highveld Lions v Knights, Potchefstroom; Warriors v Titans, East London; Cobras v Dolphins, Paarl

Sunday (start: 2.30pm) – Dolphins v Warriors, Durban; Titans v Lions, Benoni - The Star