T20 compelling, but little glitz

FILE PICTURE: Graeme Smith. Picture: Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images

FILE PICTURE: Graeme Smith. Picture: Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images

Proteas Test skipper Graeme Smith’s withdrawal from the rest of the domestic T20 competition unwittingly elicits a curious observation about the tournament.

Cobras coach Paul Adams had earlier in the week confirmed that the 32-year-old’s perennial ankle problem had flared up again and that he’d be rested for the rest of the competition in order to be ready for next month’s Test series against Australia.

But ask yourself this question: how much will his absence count for in the greater scheme of things?

Cricket South Africa (CSA) had specifically created a window this season in order to ensure the national players would be available for the majority of the tournament that’s been generally praised, especially because it has the potential to raise its profile.

T20 still remains undervalued in this country, illustrated by title sponsors RAM apparently not increasing the winner’s cheque as they still explore the merits of a bigger investment.

As the competition reaches its latter stages, the jury is still out on how glitzy the product is.

Wednesday’s clash between the Cobras and Titans illustrated vividly the value of star power in one’s line-up as Sunil Narine and Saeed Ajmal produced spells encouraging enough to suggest that T20 superstars can indeed have a positive impact, particularly in terms of entertainment.

Narine has taken five sticks in his first three outings for the Cobras, notably strangling opposition batsmen with an economy rate of under six, while Ajmal took 3/21 on his Titans debut.

Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi had also been lined up to play for the Dolphins and Knights respectively but couldn’t fulfil their engagements.

Naturally, the Highveld Lions’ Pakistan duo of Azhar Mahmood and Sohail Tanvir have struggled in what is patently an abnormal changeroom environment following Alviro Petersen’s resignation as captain.

On the whole, though, it would seem that the fundamental truth about South African domestic T20 cricket is being reinforced – it’s a competitive, compelling on-field product lacking glitz.

It’s a testament to the strength of the franchise system that it’s still the local players performing the best.

Before last night’s round of fixtures, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock have been the only national players lighting up the run-scoring charts as men like Reeza Hendricks, Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien seize the stage.

Meanwhile, Robin Peterson is the only current Protea in the top 10 of the wicket-takers list.

Instead, the talented Beuran Hendricks has decimated every order he’s bowled against, while the Warriors duo of Rusty Theron and Lundi Mbane epitomise the Warriors’ success despite relying solely on local players.

South Africa’s domestic T20 has always been strong, of that there’s no doubt.

But it looks unlikely to make inroads into world cricket’s consciousness anytime soon.




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12 January 2019 TURFFONTEIN

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