Cape Town – Well, well, well … just as Cricket South Africa (CSA) looked on the verge of failing to launch their yet-to-be-seen marquee, international T20 tournament for a second year running, they have pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
One of the major reasons that the 2017 T20 Global League never got off the ground was because CSA could not strike a broadcast deal with SuperSport.
Former CEO Haroon Lorgat allegedly priced the product way too high and gave SuperSport a figure that they were never going to get anywhere near matching.
It was a situation that ultimately cost Lorgat his job.
This year, under the new leadership of Thabang Moroe, CSA have been nosediving with this tournament.
It was initially announced that they had joined forces with SuperSport, who were unveiled as equity partners, and therefore broadcasters, of that tournament.
That relationship proved to be nothing more than a brief fling, however, and all of a sudden SuperSport had bailed out of the deal.
Even then, both parties acknowledged that they were still on track to come to an agreement over broadcasting rights.
Then, on Tuesday, CSA dropped a bombshell by announcing that the six-team tournament would be screened on SABC 3 as the cash-strapped public broadcaster was awarded the rights.
It is a potential game-changer for cricket in South Africa and, on the surface, the announcement is exciting news that should be celebrated.
Making cricket available to all corners of the country will only ever be a good thing as it results in more youngsters being exposed to the sport and, ultimately, a more naturally transformed sport.
If the game is to grow, then it should not only be available to those who can afford increasingly absurd R900 per month subscriptions.
A quality cricket tournament that is freely available to the entire country is ground-breaking and CSA should be applauded for taking that step.
A quick reality check, however, suggests that there is still an awful lot that can go wrong.
Aside from the fact that joining forces with the broke SABC comes with its own red flags, CSA is simply running out of time to get this thing off the ground.
The tournament is due to start on November 9, leaving CSA with a little over a month to announce the name of the tournament, the host cities, the franchises, the players and the fixtures.
CSA also announced on Wednesday that they had given players – local and international – just six days to express their interest in playing in the tournament.
It is difficult to see how, in that time, CSA can secure the star player power that had committed to the failed product of 2017.
It could end up being a case of this tournament being a glorified domestic competition, even though sides are told that they must have a minimum of three overseas-based players, but that is not the biggest concern.
Whenever SABC has broadcast cricket in the recent past, they have done so through using the SuperSport feed.
It means that the actual television production of the product has been done by SuperSport, who will not be involved at all in this tournament.
With the SABC effectively broke, will they be able to pump in enough resources to ensure that they deliver a world class product capable of generating income from outside of the country?
In any of these money-spinning tournaments, the official broadcaster has a massive role to play. They are the ones tasked with making the overall product appealing to a global market.
The SABC, who have been struggling to pay salaries, will have to arrive at the grounds with their own production trucks and equipment and then produce world class coverage.
With 32 matches confirmed for the tournament at six different venues over a period of a little over month, the SABC will be under pressure to show that they have the capacity to match their rivals over at SuperSport.
This tournament is now considered a way for the SABC to get out of the red, and it is an opportunity for them to show that they can be trusted with major events.
In a perfect world, they will pull this off and the tournament will thrive, reaching thousands who have never been exposed to T20 cricket before. That is first prize.
There is, however, the very real concern that the wheels are about to fall off, because the truth is that CSA has left everything to the last minute, embarrassing itself along the way.
If the stars align, this SABC deal could be the masterstroke CSA needs to justify its new leadership.
But if the tournament is a dud, for whatever reason, then somebody must be held accountable, just as Lorgat was this time, last year.
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