The restructuring of South Africa’s domestic, first-class cricket is in full swing. If Cricket South Africa (CSA) can have its way, it will be implemented on 1 May.
In a nutshell, the current two-tier system of six franchises supported by a lower tier of thirteen provinces will disappear. It will be replaced by a one level first-class structure of fifteen provinces. The provinces will be divided into an A and B section with eight and seven teams respectively.
CSA has prescribed a process in terms of which each province can make submissions for it to be included in the A section. It is an ostensibly democratic process, but in reality it will be a fight for only two places. The six provinces where the current franchises are based (Northerns, Gauteng, Free State, KZN Coastal, Eastern Province and Western Province) will be in the A section. The remaining two spots will come from the so-called smaller provinces: Boland, South Western Districts, Border, KZN Inland, Northern Cape, North West, Easterns, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
The biggest problem with the process is that Mpumalanga and Limpopo do not have first-class status. If CSA’s submissions process were truly equal, it means that, at least for starters, Limpopo and Gauteng have an equal crack at an A section berth. That cannot be if Limpopo does not have first-class status. The transparency of the process is already in doubt.
Furthermore, what incentive will there be for a professional player to turn out for Limpopo and Mpumalanga if the do not have first-class status? It gets worse: CSA’s provisional plan is for a single round of four-day games in each section. With Limpopo and Mpumalanga in the B section, it means the other five teams will only play four official first-class games the entire season! First-class cricket is the nursery ground of all cricket. How will our domestic cricket improve if it is shown such scant regard?
A glance around the other smaller provinces does not instil confidence either that anyone can fill the remaining A section spots:
- Easterns are without a CEO since the suspension on Mpho Seopa in July 2020. Seopa (a relative of Thabang Moroe) was kicked out following forensic audit.
- At Northern Cape, a palace revolution is brewing. Former president Rihan Richards (now CSA’s acting president) and CEO Eugene Jacobs have done an admirable job in managing professional cricket in a province with huge logistical challenges (Kimberley is 1,001 km from Alexander Bay). However, a faction led by their acting president, Gibson Molale, is apparently hell-bent on changing the whole leadership corps at their AGM at the end of February. Sounds like power and egos trumping cricket sense.
- At the end of 2019, in quick succession, Border fired their financial head, Caroline Maphosa, and the CEO, Thando Booi, resigned. A new CEO, Andile Mxenge, was only appointed earlier this month. Mxenge has no previous experience in cricket administration. He will be steering the Border ship with president Simphiwe Ndzundzu, a man facing assault charges from women.
South African cricket is ripe for a restructuring of the professional domestic game. But off the field, a distinctly amateurish game is being played.