Time to consider the domestic structures
International cricket is having a very short recess. The Proteas are set to go to New Zealand for a six-week tour shortly. After that it will be the IPL which will mean another break from international cricket but after the IPL international cricket will take centre stage with high-profile series being the order of the day over the next few months. The international programme and performance of the Proteas will be top priority over that period
Therefore the possible re-structuring of the domestic system that is being discussed at present is of prime importance in this time when international cricket isn’t the focal point. There have been emotional discussions on this subject on a number of occasions in the past without any real threat of change to the franchise system which has been in operation for the last few years. There has also been an official review into the merits of the franchise system.
The discussions have always centreed around the possible addition of one or two extra franchises. This time, however, the tide has turned completely and there are strong views being expressed in favour of a move back to the original provincial system. Before the franchise system came into being there were eleven provinces.
There is a feeling now that it is time to explore a return to the old system, but with the addition of an extra province to make up twelve competing teams. The thinking is also to go to two divisions within the twelve-team format, with a promotion-relegation system in place.
This system would be good news for the smaller provinces. It would give them incentive to improve their business model as well as hang onto players they have developed. It would be a shot in the arm for the smaller facilities around the country as well to host cricket of a higher standard.
Understandably there is a reluctance on behalf of the current established franchises to go down this road. Some of them believe there is simply too much to lose on every level if a return to the previous system is approved.
There are key factors to consider when making this important decision for domestic cricket in South Africa. One is not to compromise on the standard of cricket. A domestic system that ensures that the gap between international cricket and domestic cricket is not too wide in terms of standard is optimum.
The financial viability of the new system is paramount as well. The other crucial factor is to ensure that talented players in the system all get exposure at domestic level. The last thing one wants to see is that any talent is lost, either by players moving overseas or simply not being given an opportunity.
Any decision on a possible change to the system is incredibly important and cannot be taken lightly. The fact that the current franchise system always appears under threat must be an indication that the system isn’t ideal at present and not representative of the interests of all the stake-holders.
Should a new system come into play it is to be hoped that it will be in the best interest of the game as a whole in South Africa.