Franchise cricket's peculiar player market is a double edged sword

Tony de Zorzi. (Gallo Images)
Tony de Zorzi. (Gallo Images)
  • Even in the current environment, player movements between local franchises remain surprisingly common and raises the question of whether it happens too often. 
  • Dave Nosworthy, former franchise coach and now mentor for players, points out it's a double edged sword as various players have benefited previously from the relative freedom of movement, but that some moves aren't done for the right reasons.
  • Tony de Zorzi's high-profile move from the Titans to the Cobras is a good example of a switch that makes real cricketing sense.

To illustrate just how intensely Covid-19 has crept into basically every aspect of life, the pandemic has - unwittingly - provided a reminder of local franchise cricket's more interesting characteristics.

Players switching teams in the off-season remain, even in this strangest and most challenging of years, surprisingly common and continues to raise the question of whether it's good for them and the system.

How has the coronavirus highlighted this? Well, it's understood that one of the two Knights players that were revealed to have tested positive earlier this week is a new recruit from a different franchise.

The point is, numerous domestic players are rapidly becoming journeymen in terms of the variety of franchises they've represented.

Jonathan Vandiar, whose new home is Bloemfontein, is at his fourth team.

Tshepo Moreki and Tladi Bokako have represented three each.

And the franchise themselves aren't too worried about squads that change consistently. 

Only the Dolphins (three) have contracted less than four players who weren't part of their system the previous season, with the Warriors and Cape Cobras acquiring five "outsiders" on top of some promotions within their feeder region.

Interestingly, "transfers" in domestic cricket isn't all about money as certain other codes.

There are exceptions, but in general, player movements are about franchises directly filling a hole instead of strengthening or building depth - Moreki, for example, is ostensibly moving from the Titans to the Cobras to replace Bokako, who has left Newlands for the Wanderers.

Are players moving too much in general? 

"I suppose you can also ask the question if players actually move enough," Dave Nosworthy, former SA 'A' and franchise coach, told Sport24.

The 52-year-old is intimately familiar with the market, both as coach and nowadays mentor for various players.

"As much as competition for franchise contracts is reasonably high, it's also surprisingly easy to fall into a comfort zone. I don't think one should be overly concerned about the number of players that move yearly. If you go for the right reasons and you use the system well, it's a good thing."

Nosworthy cites the example of former Proteas all-rounder Justin Kemp, who arguably took too long to make his decisive move from Eastern Province to Northerns in 2003.

"I might be a bit biased because I was involved in that, but Justin was an interesting example. He did make his international debut while still in Port Elizabeth, but his career only really ignited once he moved to Centurion," he said.

"He was fiercely loyal to the region as a Queens College and EP stalwart and there's nothing wrong with that. Yet if he made the move earlier, could he have perhaps played even more international cricket? I know my answer."

Tony de Zorzi's move from the Titans to the Cobras is an appropriate current example.

The 24-year-old left-hander has become one of South Africa's more accomplished young batsmen in a competitive and successful environment at SuperSport Park.

There would've been more than enough reason to stick around.

Yet he's swopped that familiarity for the demands of competing at what is now the hotbed for SA's promising batsmen - Janneman Malan, Jono Bird, Zubayr Hamza and Kyle Verreynne.

"A fresh environment is in many cases a good thing. And given that it's not necessarily that difficult to move if you've developed a pedigree for yourself, players should do it if it's for the right reasons," said Nosworthy.

But there can't be denying that some players over the years have jumped from ship to ship without improving meaningfully in the process.

"Yeah, some departures are all about an agent making a quick buck. There are a lot of very good agents in South African cricket, but a few who really just want to pocket. That's no good for the players or the system in general."

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