A tournament without inspiration
It would seem that the cricket and the weather gods have joined forces to help put all but cricket administrators, TV producers, stadium security, the players and their families out of their miseries.
The MTN Domestic Championship, the major one-day tournament in South African domestic cricket, has been a rather sorry affair right from the start: the average crowd coming to each game has hardly been 2000, and the fiasco over the venue for the first semi-final further added to the woes. Now, it seems the last week of the tournament will fizzle out into a damp squib. With plenty of rain predicted at Centurion - the venue for the second semi-final and the final - for the whole week, it appears that the last two matches will be severely affected. If neither game is completed, the Titans, who have run away with the tournament so far, losing only one match out of 12, will progress to the final on Wednesday/Thursday and then will be forced to share the spoils with the Warriors, who have already reached the final.
The weather isn't the only problem, though. One wonders where the crowds have gone. Is it the abundance of cricket available to the public? Is it a problem with the scheduling, with 45 matches being crammed into 43 days? Is it the lack of superstars and the reluctance of the South African board to allow the big names to play between international duties, or is that the limited-overs game is facing a slow death? One has to feel sorry for the sponsors MTN - had it not been for live television coverage, they would have had to have faced their shareholders. Maybe they will still have to.
The cricket on display has hardly been inspiring, with teams struggling to put runs on the board. Only four times has the 250-mark been exceeded, and two of those came in the same game. The average score per innings is a meagre 188. Only eight hundreds have been scored, two of which have come from Morne van Wyk. It's hardly the kind of numbers which will draw people to the game.
Arno Jacobs has been the one batsman who has stood out, scoring over 500 runs, almost 100 runs more than the next batsman in the list, while Juan "Rusty" Theron has been the outstanding bowler, equalling the tournament record of 30 wickets. Robin Peterson's record breaking 7 for 24 in the first semi-final against a highly rated Eagles batting line-up must rate as the highlight of the series.
Fortunately, though, there is something to look forward to: the Standard Bank Pro20 begins on March 25. Hopefully, it will produce the excitement needed to resurrect spectator interest and get people back to the grounds.
Keith Lane works for Cricinfo in South Africa.