DURBAN – This thing is really happening. Tell the naysayers, the doubters and the dubious.
This thing, this Mzansi shindig is no longer a pipe-dream. It is not the corporate daydream of a few crusty suits anymore. There are teams. There are fixtures. There are venues. Heck, there is even a broadcast partner and, most pertinently, a headline sponsor.
We are four weeks away from a new dawn, and it is now over to the public to embrace this thing. Those who have spoken about the Mzansi Super League being the potential saviour of South African cricket are not too far off the mark.
The world is changing, and gigs all over the place are paying enough money to turn the heads of even the most patriotic of performers. So, if this Mzansi ship doesn’t set sail and catch the winds of optimism, we may well be sunk as a cricketing nation in the not too distant future.
One only needs to look to the Windies and Zimbabwe, to see how quickly a cricket economy can erode. As a country, we always look at Zimbabwe as an example for politics gone wrong, but there is a cricket example there, too.
Our neighbours suck on the hind tit, desperately trekking to anywhere that will take them for a short tour. They are in permanently tough times, and theirs is an example of how things can descend if the game gets in the wrong hands.
South African are a drawcard, a squad full of big names and young men making a name for themselves. They are primed to potentially win their first World Cup. But no one quite knows what happens after that.
It will be a squad largely made up of 30 and overs in England, and some of those players will take a long, hard look at their future once the World Cup dust settles. A win gives them a chance to walk off into the sunshine with heads held eternally high.
A loss allows the selectors to draw a line, and start afresh with a new batch. So, South African cricket is at a crossroads of sorts. And that junction would be a lot less certain without the potential that the Mzansi Super League could yet unearth for cricketers, administrators, sponsors and the public.
The SABC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they reach millions more eyes and ears than any other broadcaster. They will spread this gospel, and then hope it catches alight for the future. Every stakeholder is banking on this year going off without a hitch.
This may be the most important month in South African cricket, because it will be the mother of on-field sustainability tests.
If they pass, they can look to a future where their little league may grow into something with cash decent enough to keep their very best players home and comfortable. That is the plan. It has to be.
We do not want to be another giant Test outfit crippled by the easy money of T20 cricket. The ultimate format has been our preserve, our daily bread, because we are best at it. South Africans ooze defiance, and Test cricket is the best platform to dish that out.
So, all we can do now is get behind this Mzansi thing, and trust that it will be as super as the name suggests.
The punchline may suggest a bit of fun for the whole family, but it is a lot more sincere than that.
This thing could be the beginning or, grimly, the beginning of the end of cricket as we know it.