New era in cricket should get everyone excited about the game again
CAPE TOWN - When Rivaldo Moonsamy was last man out off Senuran Muthusamy’s bowling it was not only the crowning moment for the Dolphins in the CSA 4-Day Franchise Series final, but it also brought the curtain down on the franchise era in South African cricket.
The six-team structure started in 2003/04 has run its course. It will be replaced by a new format that comprises two divisions and the 15 provincial affiliates from next season.
I have mixed feelings about the end of the franchise era.
Initially based on the Australian state system that centred around a strength-versus strength ideology, the franchise system delivered on its promise during the early years.
It was hard, competitive cricket with the best domestic players going hard against each other. It also promoted transformation with four players of colour required in each starting XI.
In the cases of some franchises not being able to develop black players within their own borders, they sought talent from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
The system was working as it created opportunities for black players in other regions whereas their progression might have been blocked at their "home" franchise.
Some like Farhaan Behardien and Henry Davids went on to represent the Proteas due to regular playing opportunities being afforded up north.
The system also helped drive the Proteas to the No 1 Test spot in the world. Legends such as
Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander all cut their teeth in the franchise system. Philander, in particular, bowled over after over while developing his craft at the Cape Cobras.
The fringe players were also ready at any stage to fill in for the regulars when called on and often did it with aplomb like Faf du Plessis, Kyle Abbott, Lungi Ngidi and Marchant de Lange, who all excelled on their respective Proteas Test debuts.
Unfortunately, the regression of the Proteas over the past few years has coincided with the decline of the standard of the franchise system.
And something needed to be done to refresh the structure. While the return to the provincial format may be seen as Cricket SA cost-cutting by some, it is also an opportunity to address the pitfalls of the past few years. There has been a serious lack of experience in domestic cricket when the national players were routinely not available.
The Kolpak exodus did not only hurt the national team, but had a bigger impact lower down. The ability to accommodate their return into the system will improve the standard.
The promotion and relegation system will also see a return of serious competitiveness and accountability in domestic cricket that went out of the window after the T20 Champions League was disbanded.
The new format has me excited about the future of SA cricket. And that’s not something I’ve said in a very long time.