Wed, 03 Jun 2020

Cape Town - That there is widespread concern surrounding Cricket South Africa's (CSA) current administration is a gross understatement.

From an ongoing legal battle with the South African Cricketers Association (SACA) to multi-million-Rand debt to the fact that last week three senior officials, including the acting director of cricket were suspended, these are uncertain times for the game's governing body in South Africa.

That the national Proteas are in a world of hurt following a dismal 2019 Cricket World Cup and a five-match losing streak in Test cricket should be the biggest worry, but it isn't even near the top of that list.

Now, CSA must host a successful and lucrative Mzansi Super League (MSL), which gets underway on Friday.

This is the second edition of what has become CSA'S flagship product; one that has been earmarked as the primary vehicle to drive the organisation out of its dire financial predicament.

MSL 2018 had its successes. The quality of the cricket on offer was widely praised while the tournament was screened on free-to-air television for the broader South African public on the SABC.

That CSA missed out on a lucrative broadcast deal with SuperSport, however, would have been a major blow while crowd numbers were another visible concern.

The 2019 product needs to show marked improvement if it is to become South African cricket's cash cow and a way of seeing the best players in the country commit to basing themselves here.

The players themselves understand this, and Proteas captain Faf du Plessis spoke about the importance of the tournament being a success at the Paarl Rocks season launch on Wednesday.

Du Plessis himself has been surrounded by an element of uncertainty since the World Cup.

He is yet to confirm his future in ODI cricket while he has not yet been confirmed as the side's T20 captain heading into the T20 World Cup in Australia next September.

Du Plessis did not play in the recently completed T20 series in India where Quinton de Kock led in his absence.

Speaking to Sport24 on Thursday, however, Du Plessis made it clear that he still expects to go to the T20 World Cup and that the planning has started.

"Yes," was his blunt response when asked if this year's MSL is the beginning the road to Australia 2020.

"Because the standard (of the MSL) is so good."

In the 2018 edition, players like Rassie van der Dussen and Anrich Nortje stood up with superb displays that ultimately resulted in them being picked for the Proteas' 2019 World Cup squad.

"In some cases, it worked positively for players but in others it worked negatively. Guys who were in form and then didn't perform in the Mzansi missed out on the World Cup," Du Plessis added, accepting Heinrich Klaasen as an example.

"For the fringe players it is an opportunity to say, 'pick me, I am smashing down the door'.

"I used last year almost as a school for me to get to understand all the players in the country, even when I wasn't playing against teams, I would watch the other games. I placed a lot of importance in watching some of the guys I haven't seen a lot of.

"You're starting that competition with your eye already on trying to find that group of players (for the T20 World Cup)."

Du Plessis' focus in the MSL will be on scoring runs and guiding Paarl to victory, but he will always have one eye firmly on higher honours late next year.

The good news is that almost all of the Proteas in the T20 World Cup picture will be playing in the MSL.

So, should there be more alignment between the franchises to try and identify a blueprint that the Proteas will employ in Australia?

"That's something where there is room for improvement," Du Plessis said.

"The style of cricket that wanted to play last year at the World Cup was one of being aggressive, positive and brave and it needs time.

"It needs time for people and players to really buy into it. That was the idea, but in the World Cup it didn't really play out like that so it's understanding that things maybe need a bit longer."

The aftermath of England and then the beating the Proteas took in India was not easy on Du Plessis, but he remains fully committed to leaving the national side in a better place when he does eventually decide it is time to move on.

"As cricketers we understand our role in the sporting world in South Africa," he said.

"People in South Africa love sport. In order for them to keep loving sport, we need to do well and play a great brand of cricket and be successful."

Friday's opening match of the MSL will see the Jozi Stars host the Cape Town Blitz at the Wanderers.

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