The more I try to explain to her the contrary, the more she professes “I see you on TV all the time”. I have often asked whether she watches further than the previews and actually spends time watching the cricket. “No, it is too boring,” has been her routine response – to my absolute displeasure of course!
This all changed on Thursday.
From the moment she arrived for her shift, she wanted to talk about cricket. I could not understand the sudden interest, until she said “I want to go to that ‘Purple Stadium’. It looks fun there. Can you take me?’”
The “Purple Stadium” was, of course, Boland Park. The home of the Paarl Rocks in the new Mzansi Super League.
“Abbie” had just confirmed to me what the League is all about. It had successfully managed to transform a former non-cricket spectator into an avid fan. Judging by the turnout at Boland Park for every home game, and the numbers that SABC posted after the first weekend of the MSL T20, she is not the only one.
The power of televising the matches on the free-to-air national broadcaster is limitless for it reaches an audience that was previously completely out of touch with the game.
While I do agree with my colleague Stuart Hess that “Paarl doesn’t speak for or represent the whole of the country”, the tournament has certainly captured the imagination of at least the Western Cape public.
The crowds at both Newlands and Boland Park have been the strongest in the country, with the tournament opener between the Cape Town Blitz and Tshwane Spartans a particular spectacle.
The key aspect surrounding this is that besides the area traditionally being the strongest supporters of sport in the country, there has been a considerable effort from both teams to grow their brand and new identities. The partnership with local radio station Good Hope FM has been a masterstroke. Stadium announcer/comedian/sports presenter Dalin Oliver has developed a cult following in a short space of time for the vibe that he has been able to generate in both stadiums.
Suddenly heading to the cricket on a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon is a “cool” thing to do. And this in a city that has many attractions to offer a socialite.
I have not attended any matches at other venues around the country, but I do feel watching it on television it has been devoid of any atmosphere. Although all the other franchises have employed leading marketing and PR companies to assist with growing their brand, there still seems to something amiss.
The Mzansi is definitely abuzz at grassroots level too. I come across lots of children playing the game and they certainly cannot stop talking about the Blitz, Rocks, Stars, Spartans, Heat and Giants. I even encountered a young leg-spinner mimicking Tabraiz Shamsi’s “shoe mobile call” celebration.
I firmly believe that given sufficient time to crawl, the Mzansi Super League will soon be running and indeed capture an audience that’s greater than just the Western Cape.