JOHANNESBURG – Anyone who watched that cringeworthy production of the SA Sports Awards last week must worry about what the SABC will do with the Mzansi Super League.
Game 1 of the MSLT20 between the Cape Town Blitz and the Tshwane Spartans will be played at Newlands tomorrow and will be broadcast on SABC 3 from 6.30pm.
There has been no information forthcoming from the embattled public broadcaster about who will be commentating on the event.
It’s been a rush to get the MSL going. Cricket SA’s office is chaotic; words like “hectic” and frantic” were used to describe scenes there as the federation desperately tries to finalise a sponsor for the tournament, while teams have had kit given to them and then taken away and then returned to them so they can do photo shoots.
A bit like its defunct predecessor, the T20 Global League, the MSL desperately needs the cricket on the field to take over and become the story. Tumi Morake, Nina Hastie, Jomo Sono and Makhaya Ntini being in an ad while AB de Villiers swats a bunch of shots is nice, but it can’t hide the fact that preparation for this tournament has been shambolic.
But hey, at least teams have been training, playing warm-up games and having multiple media launches (last year the Pretoria Mavericks announced three different launches but never left the launchpad). It is a hell of a lot further than the T20GL ever got.
Still, there are concerns. Despite the challenges of the current economic environment, the lack of a headline sponsor is an embarrassment, mainly because CSA has for weeks said it is close to signing a backer.
There has been anger and confusion within CSA, with a number of administrators at different franchises willing to provide the mother body with assistance but being turned away.
CSA has said it's happy to sign a sponsor even after the tournament starts, which would be no bad thing, and the caution with which companies are dealing with CSA given what happened last year is understandable.
Again, it’s another reason the product on the field will be so important - as is how it looks on TV. It was with much fanfare that CSA announced its broadcast “deal” with the SABC.
There are many reasons to feel optimistic, the most important being the SABC’s reach into the homes of the majority of people in the country. It will provide a big boost to CSA’s development initiatives to have so many eyes on a product other than the Proteas.
But the SABC’s ability to handle a production on this scale is worrying. CSA has signed an international production company to aid the public broadcaster, which simply doesn’t have the capacity - cameras, mics, production facilities, crew - to show so many matches at so many different venues in such a short space of time.
There will undoubtedly be teething problems on that front, as there will with the rest of the tournament - hopefully everyone gets their kit on time - but that is to be expected.
AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher, who were part of the first IPL, know how chaotic that was and they’re expecting similar problems for CSA and the MSL this year.
But it’s the play that counts; if that’s good, if it's entertaining, people will look passed the problems. CSA must be desperately hoping that will be the case.@shockerhess
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