Never mind increasing the number of franchises from six to eight, a vital meeting of the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Members Council this weekend is set to see the eight non-franchise provinces vote for the entire franchise system to be dismantled and for domestic cricket to return to a 12-team competition.
For the last couple of years, CSA have been talking about increasing the number of franchises mostly in order to provide increased player opportunity, but their own feasibility studies said seven franchises would just about be financially viable, but not eight. Which caused an enormous, politicised hot potato because they found it impossible to decide between a second Eastern or Western Cape franchise, or the cases put forward by Kimberley and Potchefstroom.
So now it seems CSA will do a U-turn and return to the 12-team system that was done away with in 2004 in order to make South African domestic cricket more competitive, professional and financially viable. Except CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe claimed on Wednesday that the whole process is being driven by the provinces, where eight non-franchise votes hold sway.
“The Members have asked us to look at domestic cricket again, they have their concerns and we need a directive from them. It’s about player opportunity, the pipeline is producing enough cricketers but they aren’t getting enough playing time. It’s lopsided in that contracted players are playing way less than the guys who are not contracted.
“I’m hearing a lot of rumours about the franchises – do we keep it the same or expand; there are those who want eight to 10 franchises and those who want to go all the way back to 12 teams. But as CSA management we don’t know until they tell us. We can’t say no to the Members, but obviously we have a responsibility to show them the financial implications.
“We will be meeting on Friday and Saturday and I do believe some decisions will be made, although we don’t know how far the presidents’ mandates extend in terms of their respective provinces. Depending on the level of changes, the horse may have bolted for next season especially because contracting has to be done now, and then we will only do this for the 2020/21 season,” Moroe said at the launch of the T20 Challenge at CSA headquarters.
Even though Moroe would not confirm it, the players and franchises are treating the 2018/19 CSA T20 Challenge that starts at the weekend as the last one because the arrival of the Mzansi Super League has made it superfluous.
The fact that it has been tagged on to the end of the summer shows the lack of interest in a competition that has basically been taken over by the MSL, with Moroe admitting they are concerned that both players and spectators are already suffering from cricket fatigue.