Should South Africa have its own cricket Big Bash?

2014-02-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Piggy-backing good ideas doesn’t always work, of course.

But considering the success in its third year of Australia’s Twenty20 Big Bash League, it is worth examining whether South Africa might be able to rejuvenate its own slightly labouring T20 competition through a reasonably similar model.

The Australian and South African domestic landscapes are strikingly similar: the two biggest Southern Hemisphere powers in the game have three major competitions and two of them each feature six state or “franchise” in our case, teams.

But a crucial difference lies in the way the Aussies structure their main money-spinner — the T20 competition.

Three years ago they broke down the six state-based sides for T20 purposes, changing the teams to eight clearly city-identifiable franchises, including two each for the major metropolises of Sydney (Thunder and Sixers) and Melbourne (Renegades and Stars) that have helped create derby spirit.

Several of the Aussie teams boast continuous upward trends in crowd figures and they have also laid on the various,­ associated “bells and whistles” making pitching up at the games vitally appealing to broader audiences than just outright cricket-lovers.

In 2011/12, Cricket South Africa, did try something different by introducing a new team, the New Age Impi, but it was a notably failed experiment.

But could South Africa feasibly expand its own T20 competition to eight teams, perhaps also with the new marketing and PR potential that would come with the Highveld Lions morphing into the “Jo’burg Lightning” or the Cape Cobras becoming, say, the “Cape Town Southeasters” in the game’s shortest format?

The big provisos would be whether the country would boast the depth of credible enough talent to sustain two extra sides and, just as importantly, which regions (or cities) should be the beneficiaries.

Cobras coach Paul Adams made the good point on Thursday that the Aussie competition is flush enough to be able to include many more overseas big names than its SA equivalent.

“Strengthening local sides that way depends on the financial state of the franchises concerned, and a big drawback is probably the weakness of the rand to the dollar right now,” he said.

“Look, certain grounds here are pulling in the crowds and others have been low ...”

Should South African contemplate expanding, and renaming the T20 franchises to give a “city” feel, centres that might benefit, hypothetically, would be Paarl — creating a second Western Cape side, where the bulk of crowd support lies — and perhaps through a split of the Warriors franchise back into separate Port Elizabeth and East London units, also fostering a derby factor.

A third Highveld side, based at Benoni or Potchefstroom, might also be an option.

But money remains a notably obstacle to such dreams, it seems …

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