South Africa and franchise cricket: the grouchy grinches turn grateful

by   •  Last updated on
Despite being benched for most of the 2023 IPL, Quinton de Kock fired in the MLC
Despite being benched for most of the 2023 IPL, Quinton de Kock fired in the MLC © MLC

Don't count Rob Walter among the grinches who bemoan the proliferation of franchise leagues. Instead South Africa's men's white-ball coach is only too grateful that his players are active when they would otherwise be twiddling their thumbs - and that as a World Cup looms.

"It's been great that, with us not having much international cricket, our guys have been able to be involved somewhere," Walter told Cricbuzz. "We've had anything up to 15 players in different leagues and competitions, the majority of our top players. They've become hot property in league cricket. It's been good that they've had competitive cricket. It's been a busy-ish time for our guys but you never want to pass up the opportunity to compete and hone your skills."

Of the 12 players who completed South Africa's Covid-interrupted home World Cup Super League (WCSL) series against the Netherlands in April - Walter's team's most recent engagement - only Temba Bavuma and Lungi Ngidi have not played since.

The rest have been in action in the IPL or the MLC; in fact, both,in the cases of David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada. Miller and Tabraiz Shamsi are still at it in the LPL, Klaasen in the Hundred,and Rassie van der Dussen in the Global T20 Canada.

de Kock is living in interesting times. Having missed the first two games in the IPL because he was held to the higher priority of South Africa's WCSL matches against the Netherlands, he was left out for Lucknow Super Giants' next eight matches because his stand-in, Kyle Mayers, scored four half-centuries in his first 10 innings and offered a bowling option. Nicholas Pooran took care of the wicketkeeping duties. Consequently de Kock played in only four of a possible 13 games.

Nevertheless, he came back strongly at the MLC, where his aggregate of 264 runs included three 50s. He scored 88 off 50 in the qualifier and a 52-ball 87 in the final, facing Gerald Coetzee, Mitchell Santner, Trent Boult and Rashid Khan.

Walter was confident de Kock had done enough to stay sharp for the bigger games ahead: "You know he's never far away from runs. That's just the quality of player that he is. Kyle Mayers got an opportunity ahead of him when he was unable to play the first couple of games, and Mayers rode that. But when 'Quinny' did get a chance, he played well. He finished off the MLC like a house on fire. Good players are always close to a good score."

Klaasen has turned himself into one of the most effective middle order batters in the game. He scored 448 runs at a strike rate of 177.07, with a century and two half-centuries, in the IPL, and then hammered 235 at 197.47, banking another hundred and a 50, in the MLC.

"He's worked really hard on his gameplan, specifically against spin, and become a leading batter in his space," Walter said of Klaasen. "The key is to see the consistency with which he's been playing, especially given it's a role that entails risk. Being able to be consistent but playing on the upper end of the risk scale is great to see. It's a testament to his hard work and the development in his game in the last 18 months."

Walter, no doubt, would have wanted to see more of Dewald Brevis, Tristan Stubbs and Ngidi. Brevis spent the whole IPL on the bench but had five innings in the MLC. Stubbs and Ngidi, who were in IPL and MLC squads, weren't given a game between them in both tournaments. Walter was able to run an eye over Brevis and Stubbs during South Africa A's tour to Sri Lanka in June, but Ngidi wasn't there.

"The positive is that Lungi's still able to practise," Walter said. "Every one of the players has areas to focus on, and he's working really hard. At the camp he attended in Durban [in June and July] before going to the MLC, he was in great physical shape. It was awesome to see his hard work paying off physically. As much as he's not been playing competitively, he's been putting in the graft, and that's all he can do."

Outside of the dozen who did duty against the Dutch, Coetzee, like Brevis, played in the MLC; Wayne Parnell featured in the IPL, the Blast and the MLC and is now part of the Hundred; and Reeza Hendricks is at the Global T20 Canada.

That's a lot of moving parts for Walter and his staff to keep a handle on, but they've managed: "We've been in constant communication with the guys in terms of specific areas of focus as we get closer to the Aussie series and the World Cup."

Next up for South Africa are three T20Is and five ODIs against Australia at home from August 30 to September 17. Then it's on to the World Cup. The current schedule says they will start their campaign against Sri Lanka in Delhi on October 7.

Without all the franchise cricket South Africa's cricketers have been able to play since the Dutch series, they would have spent 149 days between international assignments. There's an argument to be made that the time in the schedule devoted to leagues could have been spent on bilateral series. The counterpunch is that the franchise scene has become more competitive than much of the official international cricket.

The grinches should be grateful, not grouchy. Not only because the show is going on, but also because it's a better show.



Move to top