It's D-Day for CSA as Mzansi Super League launches

Thabang Moroe (Gallo Images)
Thabang Moroe (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - At Thursday's launch of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) in Cape Town, both Albie Morkel and Dale Steyn confessed that an IPL-like product in South Africa had come about "five years too late". 

For some reason, it has taken Cricket South Africa (CSA) until 2018 to get a product like this off the ground, but that time has now come and on Friday night the Cape Town Blitz will host the Tshwane Spartans at Newlands. 

There are six teams, 32 matches and a decent amount of local and international talent on show, and so far it seems like CSA have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. 

The quality of the SABC production is the first major hurdle facing the tournament, while crowd attendance is the other. 

But before any of that comes into play, the bosses at CSA could be forgiven a moment to take it all in and revel in the fact that this tournament is off the ground. 

It didn't always look possible. 

After the embarrassment that was the 2017 Global League, which was cancelled at the last minute due to financial concerns and the lack of a broadcast deal, the new CSA leadership under Thabang Moroe got off to the shakiest of starts in attempting to launch in 2018. 

An equity deal with SuperSport was announced and then canned, while there was also no broadcast deal struck with the privately-owned pay-channel. 

That, combined with the fact that there were no franchises or host cities announced until mid-October, created a fair amount of doubt that the tournament would get the green light.

"Definitely, there was doubt," CSA CEO Thabanga Moroe said on the eve of the tournament opener.

"We didn't really receive much support nationwide and people had their own fears because of us calling it off last season, which was expected."

Since then, though, things have ticked along smoothly. 

Franchises, coaching staffs, players, broadcast deals and a sponsorship with Sportsman's Warehouse have all been announced, and all that is left now is for the first ball to be bowled. 

Exact details of the SABC deal are unclear, but the MSL has received a massive boost with the news that broadcasters in India and England have bought into the product. 

For now, the MSL is modelling itself on the Cricket Australia/Big Bash model, but the future plans are for the tournament to evolve into something resembling the money-spinning IPL.

"We made sure that we cut our budgets, we didn't have the big opening party that we wanted to have, our trophy tour was pretty modest ... we just wanted to get it off the ground for this year to show everybody else the CSA can deliver a tournament of this magnitude," Moroe said.

"We have had chats with Cricket Australia and the outgoing CEO James Sutherland availed his management to us so that they can give us pointers on how they started the Big Bash."

Moroe and CSA members also met with IPL bosses, and after looking at all the options decided that smaller was better for now. 

"We had to look at the SA landscape, the population, the money that you can get from broadcasters, the sponsorships, the economy of SA," Moroe said.

"That picture told us that we don't have to go into a private model and that it should be wholly owned by CSA and its members and that's why we adopted the Big Bash model. Geopolitically, SA and Australia are similar."

Friday night's match starts at 19:00

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