Giants‚ Rocks show what MSL could be
For the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants‚ Wednesday’s game against the Paarl Rocks at St George’s Park is just another top of the table clash in the Mzansi Super League (MSL).
Jon-Jon Smuts’ team have been first in the standings after six of the competition’s nine match days and second after two others.
Only once have they slipped to third‚ and that was seven match days ago.
The closest the Giants have come to losing any of their five games came when rain decided the issue in Centurion on November 13.
And a good thing‚ too‚ for the Tshwane Spartans — who were 33/4 after 7.1 overs.
The Rocks haven’t been as dominant. They were in first or second place after the first three match days‚ but spent the next five in third or fourth.
They played themselves back into second position with their exciting two-run win over the Cape Town Blitz at Newlands on Sunday.
The Giants are‚ of course‚ in first place.
Can it be a happy accident that the Giants and the Rocks play in front of two of the most animated crowds in the country? And that those spectators are drawn from smaller centres?
With its brass band and festive atmosphere‚ whatever the time of year‚ St George’s Park is among the most welcoming and pleasant places in world cricket.
That warmth has been rewarded with tight victories‚ achieved with four balls and one ball remaining‚ over the Blitz and Durban Heat‚ along with a less memorable 24-run win over the tournament whipping boys‚ the Jozi Stars.
The Rocks are based at the venue with the smallest capacity‚ which despite that has boasted the event’s biggest attendances — not least through innovative marketing ploys like a dance competition and surely the most vibrant stadium music yet heard in this country.
In a tournament that is struggling for relevance among the cricketminded public there are lessons to be drawn from what Paarl‚ in particular‚ has achieved.
Attempts are being made to learn those lessons. The first 1 000 spectators at the Heat’s match against the Giants at Kingsmead on Saturday will get in for only R1. At Newlands‚ tickets to Blitz’ games cost just R30 during the league phase.
If that sounds like desperation it probably is considering most crowd figures have been embarrassingly poor.
But at least the fans will have new blood to cheer for on Wednesday.
Netherlands international Ryan ten Doeschate has replaced the injured Farhaan Behardien in the Giants squad‚ with promising allrounder Ruan de Swardt stepping in for the hamstrung JP Duminy for the Rocks.
Their presence won’t put a dent in the R100-million loss the MSL is expected to make this year‚ which is R20-million more than the competition is believed to have lapsed into the red last year.
By all that makes sense‚ the MSL shouldn’t exist. Even so‚ it does.
And that’s enough for those who only cricket know.