CAPE TOWN – Having watched the broadcast of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) launch of its new T20 Global League live on Facebook – a game-changer in itself – it is clear that South African cricket fans are set to be hit with something they've not yet experienced during this coming summer.
The closest was, of course, was when the Indian Premier League was hastily relocated to South Africa in 2009. And what an event that was!
It was cricket on steroids. South Africans were not just engrossed by the star players out on the field, but also the A-list Bollywood celebrities who were showcased on the big screens every time they stood up in the presidential suites.
I specifically remember an aunt of mine, who had never shown any interested in the game of cricket – and that’s quite an achievement if you knew my cricket-crazy family – calling me up asking for tickets to attend a Newlands match purely because Shah Rukh Khan “was going to be under the same sky as her for the night”.
That’s the X-factor “King Khan” possesses and I’m sure it’s going to be no different when he pulls up in his orange Lamborghini – or whatever luxury vehicle he will have at the time – for the opening game in Cape Town.
In fact, I actually think it will possibly be even crazier, for unlike the IPL, where local fans had no real associations with the teams, Shah Rukh, who also owns the Kolkata Knight Riders is now a Kaapie after the superstar was unveiled as the owner of the Cape Town franchise on Monday.
Extremely happy & proud to be part of Global League. Will try our best to make Cape Town & Newlands proud of us. https://t.co/WcY81D9gek
Equally, the potential spin-off for local domestic players and associations is massive. Domestic cricketers have for far too long not swam in the same pool as their rugby counterparts, and lately some of their PSL compatriots are also financially more content.
Even the advent of franchise cricket in South Africa – where there are only approximately 100 players fully contracted besides the Proteas – has not drastically benefited the domestic cricketers' financial situation.
However, if CSA are serious about getting large numbers of bums on seats when the league starts in November, which I believe will ultimately define the success of this event, then the spectator’s overall experience has to be improved on immeasurably.
The fact that CSA, along with the local municipalities, have opted to invest R350 million on stadium refurbishment and upgrades over the next three years is the first step in the right direction.
Having also spent some time with CSA’s media guru, Altaaf Kazi, at South Africa’s inaugural pink-ball day-night Test in Adelaide last year, where the off-field activities rival anything the Durban July or The Met can put on as a spectacle, I have no doubt notes were taken on what “a day out at the cricket” actually means.
Local stadium vendors have long cried out for a more enticing domestic product to lure people through the turnstiles. Now is the time for them to up their game, too.
My only hope is that CSA have followed the correct corporate governance in regards to their own internal structures, for the last thing the T20 Global League needs is another drawn-out saga, like the one that ultimately saw to the sacking of previous chief executive Gerald Majola, who was found guilty of irregular bonus payments related to the hosting of that very same IPL in 2009.
It is exciting times indeed for South African cricket. Let’s just make sure the juice is worth the squeeze!