Champions League Twenty20 2010 September 28, 2010

Another organisational triumph for South Africa

The cricket, rugby and football versions of the World Cup have all come and gone without a hitch on the southern tip of Africa in the last 15 years. Now every imaginable ICC tournament has, too

He was young, probably a beer or six to the good, and having a good time. That described many spectators at the Champions League Twenty20 final between the Warriors and the Chennai Super Kings at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday.

But it couldn't last. As the heaving sell-out crowd contemplated its navel during the last few featureless overs of a one-sided game, a fight broke out on the grass embankment beyond the south-west boundary.

Several minutes of mad melee ensued before the young fella above was tossed roughly onto a vacant patch of grass. He landed heavily and lay quite still until security staff approached and carried him to safer pastures. Slowly, they maneuvered him upright. He stood swaying slightly, looking like he had encountered a world he had not known existed. The good time was over, some of the beer had no doubt been knocked out of him, and he no longer felt that young.

And that was about as bad as things got during the CLT20. For the rest, it was another organisational triumph for South Africa, cricket's default host country.

How the organisers of the Commonwealth Games must envy South Africa's spotless track record. That is, if they have the time for reflection as they keep an eye out for falling footbridges, broken beds, and slithering snakes.

The cricket, rugby and football versions of the World Cup have all come and gone without a hitch on the southern tip of Africa in the last 15 years. Now every imaginable ICC tournament has, too.

The CLT20 is just the latest of these. Two weeks of seamlessly sound organisation, stadiums sometimes packed to capacity, good weather - the semi-final between the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Durban was the only match affected by rain, and even then innings were reduced by just three overs - well-behaved fans (almost all of them) and, for the most part, cracking cricket made for another fine sporting spectacle.

That, in a country where decent public transport is an alien concept, crime and its shadow of fear are pervasive and the locals have a nasty reputation for treating foreigners as if all they're good for is stealing their women and jobs.

How does South Africa keep getting it right? "Our stadiums are world-class, and we have good administrators who know how to put on good events," said Titans chief executive Elise Lombard, who runs the Centurion stadium where six of the games were played. "Events like the CLT20 come in with their own team to run things. In these cases it's a question of managing relationships, but we have to make sure we are not bulldozed."

Lombard said the first of the two Centurion double-headers and the semi-final between the Warriors and South Australia were sold out. After that match, the Warriors players made a circuit of the ground to salute a crowd that had supported them as if they were their own. In a town where the Titans, South Africa's most successful franchise, have built a strong tradition, that is no small matter. Then again, South Africans of all stripes are highly likely to unite behind any team taking on Australian opposition.

"Our stadiums are world-class, and we have good administrators who know how to put on good events"
Titans chief executive Elise Lombard

The next day during the final at the Wanderers, the stands were yellow with Chennai supporters, whose voices soared above those of the Warriors fans. Many of them would be identified as part of South Africa's large Asian community, but not all.

As with everything South African, race and ethnicity are prominent in discussions on the game's future. Cricket is the next most popular sport in the country after football, but crowds still feature few black faces.

"We need to get the new target market to the stadiums," Lombard said. "Our figures for participation are good, but we need to see that in the stadiums as well."

Like Lombard, Warriors chief executive Dave Emslie saw South Africa's solid cricket infrastructure as an incentive to award events to the country. The compatible time difference between the subcontinent and Africa was another factor, and the strong relationship between South Africa and India, the game's superpower, no doubt led to "a bit of brotherhood at work in the ICC boardroom".

To hear Emslie tell it, things will only get better for Twenty20 devotees, particularly those in South Africa. "There's going to be massive growth in international T20 cricket, with huge tournaments taking place. And three years from now the CLT20 will probably be back in South Africa."

For the Warriors, the tournament was a classic tale of going from rags to riches. "Four years ago we came last in every competition we played in," Emslie said. Now he has to decide what to do with the franchise's share of the US$1million he estimates they won. Actually, the decision has already been made.

"Half the money goes to the players, and there's a profit share system involving the other franchises," Emslie said. "But our job as a franchise is to grow players for South Africa, and we'll continue to put money into our amateur structures to do so. We see ourselves as a factory for the South African team."

Emslie credits the Warriors' main sponsors, Chevrolet, with a large part of the team's success, saying they have given the previously impoverished franchise the means to operate at higher levels of professionalism.

The board to which Emslie reports is known to be among the least meddling in South Africa, perhaps because blacks have been playing cricket in the Eastern Cape for more than a century and need no convincing to continue doing so.

Doubtless they will still be doing so a hundred years from now, when the Patagonia Panthers play the Arctic Aces in the T5 World Challenge final in the Makhaya Ntini Dome in Mdingi. Game on.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Runster on September 29, 2010, 8:35 GMT

    The performance of IPL teams in the champions league T20 competition has hopefully given critics a bit of a wake-up call that IPL teams can perform on the international stage. And, @EOMER I told you so! Who won? A big Bash team or an IPL team???? CSK rock!!! Well done boys: No.1 club in the world! And may the chicken league restaurant (KFC big bash) never prosper!

  • J Ranjith on September 29, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    "How the organisers of the Commonwealth Games must envy South Africa's spotless track record." Telford needs to know that these organisers have nothing to envy, they have squandered so much that those who are not in the organising committee would envy them. Why do you insult your organisations by comparing with Delhi CWG! By looking at CWG, people might be able to understand that BCCI is far more better, which people always try to make fun of. If Ijaz Butt is there for PCB, We have a person for all olympic sports because of which India never gets any medal anywhere worth to be mentioned about.let alone talk about organising a global tounament.

  • Swaminathan on September 29, 2010, 4:08 GMT

    Shouldn't it be F5(Five-5) World Challenge instead of T5(Twenty-5)??? :-D

  • Sri on September 29, 2010, 3:06 GMT

    It's the Indian Govt squarely to blame - when we do have politicians of caliber who anticipate the problems and issues and micro-manage well, for an event like CWG why couldn't they have earmarked some taskmaster like Lalit Modi (who would have gladly assisted to raise his profile after the IPL fracas) to simply "GET THINGS DONE"! As we know, it was not a matter or money, it was a matter of coordination and project management - so the private sector should have been involved at all points, so as to reduce corruption - or again "get things done"!!

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2010, 21:09 GMT

    i totally enjoyed the tournament it had quailty everything. and it was way better than the world t20 that was staged in the caribbean earlier this year. i watch every match or followed them on cric info. amazing success the tournament grew as the day pass by in terms of crowd. next stop australia . and please dont say no because of timing . australia deserve part of the pie and also they have good stadia. picture victoria vs chennia at the mcg in front of 50,000 fans.

  • Arun on September 28, 2010, 19:31 GMT

    Well the finals was delayed due to sidescreen adjustment, I'm surprised that should have been part of a simple checklist before the start of any game and especially the finals, other than that yes, SA has always been a good place to organize multinational tournaments.

  • sabarinath on September 28, 2010, 18:35 GMT

    It is amazing what an able administration running a tight ship can achieve. SA should be proud of how smoothly and efficiently it conducted the BIG events. Talking of CWG, well the indian bureaucrats need not look far- India recently conducted the grand IPL a BIGGER and GRANDER event (than CT20 & CWG) without any glitch that too in the wake of Mumbai attack. It is all about Organizer and administrator more than anything.

  • Senthil on September 28, 2010, 12:37 GMT

    I think this CL is grant Success. I would rate this CL as the best T20 Tournament. There are so many close matches during the small duration itself. Thanks to SA for Make it big. Quality wise this is Better then World T20 also. Not many minnows. CL carry on the success, next edition to be in Eng, it would suit Indian TV Viewers time. Taking to Aus also nice but the timing diff is going to be a Big head ache

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