Ram Slam T20 Challenge 2013-14 January 8, 2014

South Africa T20 seeking right formula

A lack of public interest coupled with the prospect of Champions League qualification leaves the Ram Slam T20 in danger of becoming a means to an end

"The future is that we will play in the Ram Slam T20."

That was Graeme Smith's curt reply, accompanied with a smile that belied his frustration, when asked what was on the horizon for his team after their series win over India. Smith's irritation with the curtailed India tour and stop-start nature of South Africa's Test schedule is understandable but, for once, it had a welcome consequence: the biggest cricketing draw cards could bolster the domestic game.

South Africa's 20-over competition is one of the lower-profile ones going around. It is not a Premier League like the Indian, Bangladesh and Caribbean varieties and lacks a 'glam' factor. At the end of last summer, CSA committed itself to changing that. Suggestions included creating a family atmosphere and abolishing midweek matches in favour of weekend double-headers.

The former became the focal point of the domestic 50-over competition while the latter seems to have been shelved. The idea that remained intact was involving as many big names as possible and it is this concept Justin Kemp, a veteran of the domestic scene who is in 16th season, believes will give the competition much-needed clout.

"The more the national players turn out, the more credibility a tournament has," Kemp told ESPNcricinfo. "Over the years, we haven't seen the national players really turn out in this competition and that may be why interest hasn't been that high and audiences have dwindled. If you look at the Caribbean competition, it was packed out every day. They had a fair number of overseas players, three to four per team. Since we have something similar this time, with our own national players, we may start seeing bigger crowds and more interest."

The shortened India tour has allowed for national player availability for the entire 20-over competition and not just the latter half, as originally planned. With five of the six franchises signing foreign names, and no other cricket going on in the country until the Tests against Australia in mid-February, that should mean T20 takes centre stage, as it has done in other places. But the early indications are that this will not be the summer South Africa's local hit-and-giggle finally grows up to match its international counterparts.

The competition kicked off on the third day of a festival of cricket at Newlands, as part of the efforts to make up for the absence of a New Year's Test. Unlike any other year, it got underway with a triple-header. All six franchises were in action on one day but the guarantee of big-name sightings was only partially fulfilled.

Three of the expected superstars did not turn out for the teams and will not be seen for the duration of the competition. Dale Steyn has been granted extended rest for a rib problem so won't be bowling for the Cobras, while the Titans were without AB de Villiers, who requires hand surgery before the Australia series. Shahid Afridi withdrew from the Knights squad for personal reason.

On Wednesday, Chris Gayle, arguably the biggest crowd-puller of them all, was also taken out of contention. The Jamaican has not recovered from a hamstring tear and cannot fulfil his contract with the Dolphins.

Still, there was an overseas name in action on the opening day - the Lions fielded Azhar Mahmood - and there were plenty of South Africa superstars on show. David Miller was in the Dolphins XI, Wayne Parnell in the Warriors and Albie Morkel and Faf du Plessis turned out for the Titans. But they had few people watching them, far fewer than the number that turned up to watch an exhibition match between the national cricket and rugby teams two days earlier.

"I expected more," Kemp said. "It was disappointing to see a full stadium to watch the Proteas take on the Springboks and then maybe only half full for the other matches."For the final match, featuring the home-side the Cobras, who boast the largest contingent of national players including Smith, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Robin Peterson, the gates were opened to let people in for free and still the stands did not swell.

Low crowd figures were criticised throughout the India series and although they are not the only measure of interest, they are an important one. The South African stadium experience is comfortable, food and drink is readily available and ticket prices are reasonable.

With that in mind, there's reason to wonder whether vacant seats are either an indication that the product not compelling enough or that it's missing its market. Kemp thinks it could be the latter. "It's difficult to get people out of their living rooms, maybe because the television coverage is too good," Kemp said, jokingly. "But time of year could also be a problem. January is tough. People have just come back from holidays."

Choosing a different window is impossible for South Africa because their prime period, over December, is reserved for international cricket. This season has given them their best-case scenario. If even that is not good enough, then the event may fizzle into just another barely watched local competition, with one major difference for those involved.

"The pressure goes up for us players in the twenty-over competition because of the money at stake," Kemp said. The two teams in the final book places in the lucrative Champions League, which may end up being the most important outcome for the competing franchises.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Marcel on January 11, 2014, 7:43 GMT

    There's lots of problems with our Domestic cricket scene, I understand that the crowds are low to none in the Sunfoil series and One day cup but in T20? Its supposed to be a festival of cricket but its far from it. That whole family package is missing. What happened to the live entertainment and Dunk tank, and the activities for kids? The entertainment value is very low, because lets face it this is more than just cricket. Even watching it, its really boring. The commentating is very poor, I had to keep myself from falling asleep. Feels like I was watching a dead rubber test match. I like the fact that some of the players are wearing mic's, but the problem is someone like Paul Harris chats to them and you feel sorry for the player who has to listen to his boring chatter. Get more guys like Pommie Mbangwa who entertains. Overall I think what should be a great spectacle is turning out to be a major flop! We can learn alot from Ozzie Big Bash, IPL and Stanford. Come on CSA!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2014, 9:41 GMT

    I think SA can use a bit of creativity if they don't have enough money to convince the big players to come.SA did a great job by bringing some players from Pakistan which will give them more exposure in Pakistan and UAE.They can bring some players from Bangladesh considering the huge population and passion for cricket has the southasian country.Shakib al Hasan was free before he joined Adelaide Strikers in the big bash to replace the strikers captain,so there was chance to pick him and there is still chance to bring 5 or 6 players from Bangladesh and also Newzealand.SA need to bring also more famous ex cricketers as commentators like Big Bash does.Hope what I wrote is at least considered.

  • Lester on January 9, 2014, 14:25 GMT

    Television is killing cricket - not because they are showing the games, but because the greater majority of the population cannot afford to watch it on TV. Most cricket is shown only on the very expensive pay channel, and only on their most expensive package. With most of the country not exposed to cricket, it is only natural that they will not be interested. The same happened to tennis and athletics, and it is only going to get worse!

  • Basil on January 9, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    CSA has to do more to connect with the local communities provide busses ; we want to go but transport a big stumbling then we are exiled to watch matches on the TV. Where is the local provincial cricket associations what are they doing. I am sick of hearing complains about empty seats.

    Let face it we cant compare ourselves to other countries because our challenges are unique and we cant think traditional solutions ( running tv ads and other promotional campaings) will work.

    More needs to done to create relationships with the fans based in poor communities we want to support our team but we are blocked at every oppertunities games get televised via suppersport and sabc ( we cant afford pay tv)

    Games gets played in traditional stadiums whom have their own rules of who can and who cannot attend.

    Its by time that the sport administrators in this country become more innovative and that goes for soccer and rugby too. The sport administrators are payed to much for little value

  • Themba on January 9, 2014, 9:31 GMT

    Parking for me has always been the biggest turnoff. Why so much to park your car and on top of that the parking attendants always look dodgy especially at the wanderers

  • CASSIM SULEMAN on January 9, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    i got a problem .i am from durban.i got a 13 year old son.he needs to practise during the holidays for the coming school and club season in january.lo and behold there are no practise fascilities.there are two practice nets in the overport area .these practyice nets are in such a terrible condition and its been like that for years.what do i tell my son.shame on you mr chellan and mr jaffar all glossy and proud in your webpage.yourll are a disgrace to the cricketing community.what have yourll done in terms of fascilities for the youth.go also to phoenix/chatsworth and look at state of grounds.you are certainly not getting my and my sons money.further should he lose interest in the game i for one would not discourage him .its easier to take up soccer.

  • Garreth on January 9, 2014, 7:56 GMT

    Tend to agree with Brigitte. Everyone else I think is missing the bigger picture. If I wasn't a cricket lover, what pull would there be to get me to a cricket ground? Watching these first 4 games there is absolutely nothing that looks different from the 50 over format. The T20s are supposed to be a spectacle. A carnival type atmosphere that transcends cricket. That's why us cricket lovers often refer to it as "not real cricket". There is absolutely no reason people shouldn't be coming to the grounds. The Springbok game garnered a lot of excitement despite the fact that it was as amateur as you get. But it was the combination of festivity and curiosity that created a winner. the BBL, in terms of talent alone, has nothing on the Ram Slam and Australia have less than half the population SA do yet more spectators at the ground. SA's ticket prices are lower too! So that should tell you something. Give 'em the old razzle dazzle CSA! You've done the marketing now get to the PR

  • greig on January 9, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    Basically the administrators who are responsible for cricket attendances in South Africa need to be fired or re-educated.

    Cricket is our Summer sport, there is no real competition from a school perspective. WE need to try and create the interest in the game like they have in Oz and India. School kids should have free access, not only for the last 3 hours on the 5th day of a test match - but the WHOLE test match.

    The Marketing Campaign efforts in the country are poor to drive more interest in getting people to grounds. I also believe the ticket prices are far too high and are only available to the 'privileged'....

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    CSA should look at the downward spiral of spectators in relation to the enforced dual homes of the various franchises. The Cobras play less than half of their games at Newlands. I purchased tickets for 2 of the 3 1 Day cup games last year that were at Newlands and they both were rain affected. I went to Paarl once, the ground is sub standard and it's way to hot there for day games. How are teams supposed to build support over a season if they have to move between two locations. I realise that the intention is to spread the game across South Africa, however what it has done is dilute the support. I'm an avid Rugby and Cricket fan, however with WP and the Stormers I know where I have to be at the weekends. With the Cobras - there are always questions. So perhaps its not he tournament, but the fact that 1. not all games are televised 2. not all games are played at your main venue

    How are fans supposed to get involved if your away games aren't televised and your home games are shared?

  • Rob on January 9, 2014, 0:23 GMT

    Newlands is an outstandingly located ground - although like any other it HAS to move forwards - but to succeed SA's T20 competition must include both all their premier national players and at least 3 overseas stars per franchise plus be scheduled on set days of the week. If fans know that the Cobras will be at home every other Saturday, attendances will then match those of the properly organized test tours.

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