I realise the benefits … read money … the concept of the T20 Global League holds, but at this stage it’s hard for any prospective supporter of one of the eight newborn franchises to pledge his allegiance with anything other than a few superstars, regardless of what colours they’ll be wearing.
I mean, why should a hard-core Highveld Lions fan support the Joburg Giants? Apart from Kagiso Rabada, they have no local stars in their squad, they snubbed local coach Geoffrey Toyana and instead got some Indian dude who goes by an initial instead of a first name: S Sriram. And speaking of names, I’m not so sure how the South African cricket public will embrace all the new brands flooding the market.
I pity the poor folk in Bloemfontein the most. Over the course of just more than a decade, cricket fans in the City of Roses saw their team’s name change from the Free State, to the Eagles, to the Knights. On top of this, they’ll now get the Bloem City Blazers.
Then we get to Benoni Zalmi. Of course I had to ask Google first to find out that the word Zalmi means youth. Not to be found in one of Mzansi’s 11 official languages, but Pakistani owner Javed Afridi started out with the Peshawar Zalmi in his home country a few years back, so there is some method in the madness.
The problem is that the squad isn’t all that youthful in fact. Albie Morkel is 36, Dillon du Preez is 35, David Wiese is 32 and Dean Elgar and Eddie Leie are both 30. We move on to the Durban Qalanders and again I am at Wikipedia’s mercy, which describes Qalanders as “wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes who may or may not be connected to a specific tariqat.
They were mostly in Iran, Central Asia, India and Pakistan; in the latter ‘qalandar’ is also used as a title”. I get that. What I don’t get is why opt for a term obviously more accustomed to Central Asia and overlook more kick-ass home grown names from the area depicting traditional Zulu warriors like impi or indunas or something? It won’t exactly say the Cape Town Knight Riders is traditionally South African, but at least they are an established brand initially created in Kolkata in the Indian Premier League.
Owner Shah Rukh Kahn has enough Bollywood swagger to spice up any party, as long as he can behave himself. He did after all get banned from the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai five years ago over his scuffle with field staff. But let’s not judge a book by its cover. We’ll undoubtedly be fed lots more hype over the course of the next few months, but ultimately the product must deliver on the field of play to have an impact.
When the tournament finally rolls out I have no doubt that Chris Gayle’s 41-ball hundred will be the talk around the water coolers regardless of whether he plays in pink polka dot shirt, sports a hyena on his team’s logo or whether his employer got rowdy