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Mzansi Super League will go on

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“It is important that we announce the new structures timeously so that all franchises and provinces have a clear picture of the road ahead to advise the contracting of their players,”

Cricket South Africa’s embattled showpiece tournament the Mzansi Super League looks set to continue for at least another season, but it could be shortened in line with the rest of the domestic franchise tournaments for 2020/21 which was released yesterday.

There was much speculation that the MSL, which was the only domestic competition to the concluded this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, was set to be cancelled due to the T20 competition being unable to secure a headline sponsor and sell off its television rights for the two seasons it’s been running.

CSA have incurred the majority of the tournament’s running costs, which has amounted to millions of rands, so with the governing body looking to drastically reduce costs going forward, the MSL was potentially on its last legs. However, CSA primarily maintained the franchise status quo yesterday by opting to continue with the current six franchise system for the first-class and 50-over competitions.

The initial plan was to switch over to a 12-team provincial union structure, but after consultation with the South African Cricketers’ Association – who legally challenged this proposed motion – there will be no drastic changes with no other T20 domestic franchise tournament scheduled either.

Instead, CSA have only implemented formulaic changes with teams in both the first-class and 50-over competitions being grouped in sets of three each. Teams will play home and away matches against each of the sides in their group, for a total of four matches, and only one match against the three teams in the other group, amounting to seven matches for the season.

Previously each of the six franchises played both home and away matches in the league phase (10 games) before a potential semi-final and final.

“It is important that we announce the new structures timeously so that all franchises and provinces have a clear picture of the road ahead to advise the contracting of their players,” said CSA acting chief executive Dr Jacques Faul.

The much-debated second-tier structure will also remain in place, although major structural changes will be implemented. The provincial teams remain divided into two groups of eight and seven teams, and will play a single round of fixtures.

However, they will feature in a new 40-over knockout competition which will include the 15 provinces and the SA Under-19 team that replaces the previous one-day competition.

The inclusion of the SA Under-19 team is a vital shift after the dismal performance of the Junior Proteas at the ICC World Cup held on home soil earlier this year.

Part of the problems identified was that the SA Under-19 team, unlike many of their contemporaries at these global tournaments had precious little “senior cricket” experience with the majority of the team made up of young cricketers who had only just finished playing schoolboy cricket.