Johannesburg – Monday provided the clearest illustration yet of what is more interesting, attractive and newsworthy in South African cricket. Spoiler – it isn’t the Proteas.
Despite the novelty of the SA20 League, it was striking how different the scrutiny was between the launch event for that competition – hosted at The Deck hospitality venue adjacent to the Wanderers Stadium – and the announcement of the Proteas Test squad for the series against Australia next month.
For the latter, just a handful of media accepted the invitation to interview the chairman of selectors Victor Mpitsang and new interim coach Malibongwe Maketa at Cricket South Africa’s Centre of Excellence in Tshwane.
In Illovo, meanwhile, the SA20’s commissioner Graeme Smith had to deal with a media scrum as he was backed up against a wall with dozens of cameras and recorders shoved in his face.
Maybe Cricket SA should have had Sho Madjozi or Micasa on hand to help with their announcement of the Test squad…
In all seriousness, however, it was perhaps another example for CSA of how far the stock of the men’s national team – once the crown jewel in South African cricket – has fallen.
When Smith was still captaining the Proteas, a squad announcement for a tour to Australia generated huge interest.
In one sense, it’s a sign of the times – the bright lights, the song, the dance and the influencers are all very attractive.
A losing team, not so much.
Still, well done to Smith and his incredibly hard-working team at the SA20 for knowing how to tap into how to add some energy to South African cricket.
It is otherwise all rather dark and gloomy in the sport right now, with only the odd glimmer being provided by a Dewald Brevis special.
What Monday may have indicated is the ever diminishing importance of the Proteas as a brand. It may be far too early to make such a bold forecast, but a generation that bounces to Huku Nambiya and John Cena (the song, not the wrestler) may increasingly be targeting becoming a Super King, Super Giant, Sunriser, or whatever a member of the MI Cape Town team is called, rather than a Protea.
The tournament, as Smith explained, would certainly aid CSA’s development initiatives, particularly as far as scouting for new talent is concerned. However, where that talent chooses to forge their careers is something that CSA needs to become acutely aware of.
The longer the Proteas under-perform, particularly at ICC tournaments, the less attractive they become for the younger generation. Cricket might flourish in South Africa, but the Proteas won’t be the goal for the next generation.
There are still seven weeks to go until the first SA20 League match in Cape Town between the MI Cape Town and the Paarl Royals, but already their brightly coloured outfits, the song and the dance have had an influence.
A new age is dawning for South African cricket. Will the Proteas still be able to blossom as part of it?