LIVE CRICKET COMEBACK

CSA overcomes sticky Covid-19 wicket with a new format

By Yanga Sibembe 17 June 2020

Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada will captain KG’s Kingfishers in the three-team competition. (Photo: Gareth Copley / Getty Images)

Live-action cricket will be back on our television screens in just under two weeks – but with a twist.

After almost three months of no cricket, fans of the sport will be able to feast their eyes on the game once more. This announcement was made by Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Wednesday, 17 June 2020.

The first live cricket match in months will be in the shape of an innovative format known as 3TCricket. Under this format of the game, three teams will play in a single match, competing for the inaugural Solidarity Cup on 27 June 2020 at SuperSport Park, in Centurion.

CSA Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, shared his belief that this new format would bring back the excitement of cricket.

“It’s been quite some time since the South African public and fans of cricket worldwide have been able to consume the game we all love,” said Smith.  

“I know that the players are itching to get back into action as well, which is why we, as CSA, are so excited about the Solidarity Cup. It’s a thrilling new format and a match that is working towards a greater good. We are proud to partner with 3TeamCricket on this project,” he added.

The showcase will be a charity event and the funds will go towards helping the most vulnerable South Africans in the fight against Covid-19.

The three teams that will compete on the day are the Eagles, captained by veteran AB de Villiers; Kingfishers, captained by Kagiso Rabada; and the Kites, captained by Quinton de Kock.

Ever since being given the green light by Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa to resume competition as a non-contact sport, CSA has worked tirelessly to ensure a rapid return to the field, with details for matches against the West Indies and India being ironed out.

Smith said some of the players had been chosen with one eye on those matches, to get them ready to compete after such a long layoff.

“Putting those three teams together has been an interesting process and there’s a lot of exciting talent. But we’d be amiss if we expect our players to be 100%. They’ve handled the build-up, they handled the lockdown well, they’ve done elements of training. But they haven’t been able to get the extensive cricket or outdoor training that we normally expect of them going into big contests,” said Smith.

Chief executive of 3TCricket, Francois Pienaar told the media they have big hopes for the embryonic format, as well as hopes that it can reach far and wide. “No one planned this, it just hit overnight. This will be a beta test, but this can grow internationally and also bring in a younger audience,” stated Pienaar.

CSA’s chief medical officer Dr Shuaib Manjra had previously stated that a strict Covid-19 protocol will be in place for the match.

“First of all, it will be an empty stadium. We’re looking at the minimum number of people being there for the event to happen and be broadcast, which is about 200. The players will get in three days before and be kept in a sanitised ecosystem… In the stadium, everyone will wear masks and doors will be kept open along with other safety measures,” said Manjra.

The competition, whose headline sponsor is telecoms company Rain, will showcase 24 of South Africa’s exciting cricketers in three teams (eight players per team), playing two halves in one match.

In the first half, each team will face six overs from one of their opponents. In the second half of the game, each team will then resume batting, facing another six overs, but this time from their other opponents.

Then there’s the last man standing rule whereby the last remaining batter continues batting without a batting partner. The catch? He can only trade in boundaries and twos since retaining the strike is non-negotiable.

The team with the most runs wins Gold, while the next two teams win Silver and Bronze.

Chief executive of 3TCricket, Francois Pienaar told the media they have big hopes for the embryonic format, as well as hopes that it can reach far and wide.

“No one planned this, it just hit overnight. This will be a beta test, but this can grow internationally and also bring in a younger audience,” stated Pienaar.

Eagles skipper De Villiers believes that 3TCricket will be an incredible spectacle for the fans starved of cricket action.

“It’s a great idea and credit must go to CSA and Rain for working to develop this new, and innovative style of cricket. There are very few team sports in the world where you get to play more than one opponent in a single fixture, this is going to be a game-changer. We have some very talented cricketers involved, who are really excited to return to play with a bang.”

While all this is happening on the field, tumultuous winds have been blowing through the CSA boardroom recently.

It started off with the suspended CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe attempting to return to work on 11 June 2020 – this after claiming his suspension period had lapsed. The CSA board determined otherwise – releasing a statement that Moroe remains suspended until the conclusion of a forensic investigation of him.

A few days later, the federation announced that previously suspended head of sales and sponsor relations, Clive Eksteen had been let go. Eksteen has since come out to say he will be taking CSA to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for unfair dismissal.

Those players who have been chosen for the Solidarity Cup will be looking to ignore all the drama going on and focus on what they do best – which is to play cricket. DM

The three teams to play are as follows:  

KG’s Kingfishers: Kagiso Rabada (c), Faf du Plessis, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi, Reeza Hendricks, Janneman Malan, Heinrich Klaasen, Glenton Stuurman

Quinny’s Kites: Quinton de Kock (c), David Miller, Temba Bavuma, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Beuran Hendricks, JJ Smuts, Lutho Sipamla

AB’s Eagles: AB de Villiers (c), Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Andile, Phehlukwayo, Rassie van der Dussen, Junior Dala, Kyle Verreynne, Sisanda Magala

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