Franchise shake-up risks putting SA on a sticky wicket
With SA’s international lot much improved, let's hope Cricket SA's austerity measures don't ruin everything
I’ve always been a fan of the franchise system, even though I never quite understood its financial mechanics until I started working as a scribe.
At the end of the 2003/4 season, it was clear SA cricket was at a crossroads from a cricketing perspective.
Middling results at international level and the need to keep up with Australia forced the intervention.
There were very strong, well-resourced provinces like Gauteng, Northerns, KwaZulu-Natal (the Dolphins), Free State and Western Province who consistently battled for the available trophies and provided the spine of the national teams.
It was these sides where the six franchises were anchored, except for the Warriors (Border and Eastern Province).
Then there the likes of Northern Cape (then Griqualand-West), Border, Eastern Province, North-West, Easterns and Boland who from time to time often had a good enough side to rattle the big boys.
However, there always was a gulf between the well-resourced and the lower teams.
Often money played a role as the bigger centres with more business and money to go around could lure the better players from the smaller sides.
In the franchise system this didn’t quite stop but there always was a feeling that one franchise would get its time in the sun.
While the Titans and the Knights (then Diamond Eagles) dominated the early stages, each of the Highveld Lions, Cape Cobras, Dolphins and Warriors all had their time in the sun.
More importantly, SA remained competitive throughout the existence of the franchise system.
It’s clear from CSA’s press conferences that the franchise system is burning their already shrinking profits.
With the Mzansi Super League having claimed a significant chunk of CSA’s money, it’s safe to say the franchise system, even though CSA said it didn’t sustain itself, is the league’s first unintended victim.It is a sad turn of events if that turns out to be the case, because the franchise system has gone a long way in terms of improving SA’s international lot.Like most First-Class systems, it’s had its peak, troughs and the Kolpak tribulations, which will carry on into the new First-Class dispensation. But it was apparent that the cream rose to the top and from a transformation perspective, it did its job.Whether CSA have gone about it the right way leaves a lot to be desired, especially in how they’ve communicated with the South African Cricketer’s Association.Each year, CSA somehow finds a way to cross wires with the player’s union. In 2018 it was in regard to the memorandum of understanding, now it’s the restructuring of the domestic game.Communication is the key to any successful relationship and over the past two years there has seemingly been a stumbling block between these two parties.The path CSA intend to take only tends to clear up long after the decision has been taken.
The aims of the franchise system were clear but they only seriously took root in 2008 when SA drew an away series in India while Test series wins in Australia and England followed suit later in the year.
We can only see what the return to the old system will be and how CSA’s transformation and performance targets will sync with the new system.
The manner in which the austerity measures that CSA are embarking on must at no stage affect the quality of the cricketers this country is producing.
After all, administrators are hardly ever around to account for their decisions in the long run, whether they’re good or bad.