The second edition of the Mzansi Super League, which gets underway on Friday, may provide entertainment but it will not paper over the cracks at Cricket South Africa (CSA), according to Mark Boucher.
The former national wicketkeeper and current Titans and Tshwane Spartans coach is the first person involved with the MSL to comment on wider issues in South African cricket, which is deemed by several insiders and observers to be in crisis.
At administrative level, CSA is fighting two court battles, one against the players’ union and another against the second-biggest provincial affiliate, Western Province, have suspended three senior members of staff and are projecting financial losses of millions of Rands (R654 million is the figure CSA use, the South African Cricketers Association put that closer to R1 billion). On the field, South Africa’s Test team is reeling from five consecutive losses in 2019 and have not won three of their last four series, and there is no certainty over the director of cricket or team director positions as a tour of England looms.
“I think there are bigger issues that need to be dealt with, to be honest,” Boucher said. “There might be quite a few people looking at this and saying we’re sugarcoating the actual situation were are in with South African cricket at the moment. We’ve got ourselves into a pretty bad state. Hopefully, there are some clever heads there to try and turn things around. And they need to be sorted out very soon, for the good of cricket our country and for the good of world cricket. There are guys around the world talking about the state we’re in, it’s not good. It’s sad to read, watch and listen about our cricket. There’s a lot of negativity.”
“The tournament [MSL] will be well-supported as it was last year, but we’ve got to be very careful with putting too much emphasis on this tournament. There are bigger problems that need to be sorted out.”
Current and former internationals including Jacques Rudolph, Paul Harris and Herschelle Gibbs have been vocal on social media but Boucher’s comments could also be a response to Michael Vaughan calling the Test team’s form a “real concern” for the game. With that in mind, Boucher, despite his involvement in the MSL, has cautioned against placing too much store in the tournament or its results, because he believes it will not accurately reflect the state of the game.
“I wouldn’t read too much into this tournament. I think people will enjoy the action regardless because they love T20 cricket in general. It’s new faces, it’s new teams and new environments. The tournament will be well-supported as it was last year, but we’ve got to be very careful with putting too much emphasis on this tournament. There are bigger problems that need to be sorted out,” he said.
Down the road at the Wanderers, newly appointed Jozi Stars’ captain Temba Bavuma indicated that there was an attempt to solve some of these issues over the weekend. CSA held a team-building event at the luxury Zimbali estate, north of Durban, with administrators and players, where Bavuma said the relationship between CSA and the players’ association was discussed.
“Last week‚ we had a conference in Durban where CSA‚ the leadership and the players were there together,” Bavuma said. “That was an opportunity for CSA to outline their plans for the next couple of years and for the players to iron out the issues. There’s obviously been a spat between CSA and SACA in the media. Players have had the opportunity to resolve whatever issues that they feel need to be resolved.”
Although Bavuma did not offer finality on whether the issues had been put to bed, he conceded that the uncertainty in the administrative corridors has not helped with the national team’s transition. “It’s not ideal to have those types of issues at the top. As the Proteas‚ we’re in a construction phase if I were to call it. It also seems there’s a lot of constructing that needs to happen through the levels.”
In Cape Town, Blitz coach Ashwell Prince shouldered arms when asked whether players would be better off preparing for the England tour playing four-day cricket instead of spending five weeks in a T20 tournament. “I don’t want to make comments about the Proteas and Test cricket at the moment. I’m sure there are people in much higher positions than myself, at Proteas level and CSA level, who know exactly how they are going to go about improving the situation,” he said.