MSL opening weekend: Quality of cricket ticks the boxes

Mzansi Super League (Gallo Images)
Mzansi Super League (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Four matches took place in three days and crowd numbers varied significantly at the different venues, but there was an overall feeling of 'job done' from a Cricket South Africa (CSA) point of view at the end of the opening weekend of the Mzansi Super League (MSL).

In the game of the weekend, there were over 400 runs scored in Paarl on Sunday. It was the perfect advertisement for what is looking an increasingly crucial product for CSA.

The fact that this tournament is off the ground at all is a minor miracle given that, a little over a month ago, there were no teams, no players and a very 'iffy' relationship with the SABC. 

To say that South African cricket followers were sceptical is a massive understatement, but the powers that be at CSA will be quietly satisfied with how the first four matches of the tournament were received. 

The crowd at Newlands on Friday night that came out to see AB de Villiers and his Tshwane Spartans was the biggest of the weekend at around 7 000. It was festive, with the grass banks under the famous oaks sold out. 

As Dale Steyn and Albie Morkel both said on Friday at the tournament launch, whenever there is something 'new', people will be interested. 

The crowds that followed at the Wanderers on Saturday and then Kingsmead on Sunday were less impressive. 

Johannesburg had the unenviable fortune of hosting its first match at the same time as the Springboks tackling Scotland, while the uncertain weather in Durban may have contributed to the small attendance there. 

At both venues, however, those who were there seemed up for it.

My colleague, Rob Houwing, gave a balanced assessment of the SABC's teething problems in their coverage of the opening match on Friday night. 

Those issues persisted throughout the weekend, but there were also positives. 

For one, the feed itself was solid. There were no issues in capturing the action, and that is surely more important than anything else in the broadcast. 

Kass Naidoo, as Houwing pointed out, stood head and shoulders above the rest in the commentary box, where somebody really needs to tell Dominic Cork that we can hear almost everything he says off air. 

"Is there a Super Over?" Cork could be heard asking his colleagues in Sunday's cliff-hanger. 

Fans and broadcast deals aside, however, the biggest selling point of this tournament will always be the quality of the cricket on offer. 

In that regard, this weekend was a resounding success. 

De Villiers lit up the Western Cape in Cape Town and Paarl, Pakistan's Asif Ali smashed the Cape Town Blitz to victory in Durban and Paarl dished up an early contender for match of the tournament on Sunday as the batsmen feasted. 

The cricket, alone, rose above all the noise and spoke for itself.  

The Proteas are heading back from international duty in Australia and should all be back in the country by the end of Monday. 

That will give the MSL another injection of quality, and the prospect of seeing the likes of Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir in action will go down well. 

If you care about the future of cricket in this country, then you should want this tournament to be a success. 

If you want to avoid more Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw situations where the best talent in the country leaves, then you should want this tournament to thrive so that players have a reason to stay in South Africa. 

There is now a platform where young South African players are given an opportunity to perform on the international stage, in front of an international audience.

On Friday night, 21-year-old Kyle Verreyne was full value for a knock of 53* (34) for the Blitz against the Spartans. 

It may not have seemed like much to anybody else, but for Verreyne this would have been one of the biggest nights of his career. 

Hopefully, over the next few weeks, there are more stories like that and more promising local players who start commanding the spotlight. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ... 

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