Forget the insane money it has flooded into the system and the raging egos, the greatest value the Indian Premier League (IPL) has added has been developing India’s young cricketers.
Before that tournament took hold, Indian cricket could be relied on to fight its corner at home and not be as competitive on the road as we have become accustomed to. The main reason for that? An influx of overseas pros during the IPL opened their eyes to what’s needed to be the best at the business end of international cricket.
Having the best in the world train and play with their players has given them an understanding of best practice preparations-wise, and has done wonders for their mentality from an aggression and confidence perspective.
Gone are the days of an Indian team being cowed by playing on bouncy pitches against snarling quicks. But the IPL’s biggest game changer for Indian cricket has been the number of ready-made youngsters (think Prithvi Shaw) it has been able to produce thanks to the influence the overseas pros have had on them and their coaches.
The Mzansi Super League (MSL) may be no IPL, but it has a similar job to do for South African cricket, thanks to the smattering of overseas influence and the heavy involvement of Proteas players in the tournament.
Because it has been late by a year in starting and looks set to cost CSA an awful lot of money for an awfully long time before it starts making a return on its investment, the obsession with the MSL has rightly been about the fumbling behind the scenes, which have all but put the game’s financial future under threat.
But a week after its belated start, the cricket itself has been vibrant and it has also thrown up a fair few “new” household names.
As a colleague pointed out on social media earlier this week, a lot of fans were frantically Googling who the hell Anrich Nortje was following the Cape Town Blitz quick’s start in the tournament. It’s not that Nortje hasn’t been shooting the lights out in domestic cricket, it’s just that he has been playing his cricket out of sight in the untelevised four-day game.
But with the MSL having put him front and centre on the nation’s consciousness (and to more people via the SABC), the 25-year-old has simply carried on where he left off at franchise level, where he has taken the second most wickets, by also lying second on the MSL table behind Kyle Abbott.
The Warriors fast bowler, who repeatedly hit speeds of 146km/h in the Blitz’s opener against the Tshwane Spartans last weekend, succinctly explained the value of a tournament like the MSL when he said he was bowling with his role model in Dale Steyn and he was keen to extract every bit of information from him during their time together in Cape Town.
Nortje’s Warriors team-mate Lutho Siphamla is another one who has looked the business in the competition. Only 20, the former Grey High fast bowler looks a proper athlete and is possessed with a skrik vir niemand attitude, which will serve him well the higher he goes.
When playing for the Spartans against the Durban Heat this week, the batsmen looked to rough him up as the least experienced member of the attack, but he kept running in hard and executing his plans for figures of 3/22.
And when the inspiration doesn’t come from proving yourself against your heroes or overseas players, sometimes watching your contemporaries do well can challenge you to do the same. This was certainly the case with the Jozi Stars’ Ryan Rickelton and the Blitz’s Janneman Malan.
Malan admitted that his 57 off 39 balls against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants was galvanised by watching his old (2014) SA Under-19 team-mate Rickelton tap up the Paarl Rocks attack for 91 off 51 balls before that.
The MSL may have had a rocky path to the T20 league industry, but South African cricket will reap the rewards in what it’ll do for our young cricketers.