Cricket South Africa's interim board has noted concerns expressed by fans that the ongoing franchise four-day tournament is not being covered ball-by-ball on any platform, and has mandated one of its members to look into the matter. Judith February has been tasked with "gaining an understanding of the capacity and competency within CSA to deal with media and its stakeholders" and making recommendations to "improve communications and repair the reputational damage CSA has suffered" after the domestic season started on Monday, with a whimper.
The four-day competition has not been shown on live television for several seasons, but ball-by-ball updates were available on some platforms, including on ESPNcricinfo. For now, that is not the case, as CSA has signed an exclusive deal with data company Opta to record the matches and on-sell the data. So far, no media house has opted to buy that and CSA's own website has not been able to provide live coverage via ball-by-ball scores or a streaming service because of a technical problem.
ESPNcricinfo understands that CSA is yet to conclude talks with pay-television provider SuperSport about streaming the four-day competition on its website. Currently, SuperSport is running a scorecard but not a blow-by-blow account of how the games are unfolding.
Given the almost seven-month absence of live cricket in South Africa, and the fact that all matches must now take place behind closed doors, fans have been disappointed with the lack of coverage of the tournament and CSA has acknowledged that expectations have not been met. "The board specifically noted the dissatisfaction expressed by many journalists and cricket fans regarding the four-day matches, which had commenced but were not being broadcast live," a CSA statement read.
CSA's interim board also stressed that it is seeking to improve its relationship with all stakeholders while also working to bring about governance stability. That includes deciding who will represent CSA at the next ICC meeting, which is due to take place this month. Normally, that would be the job of the CSA president, but after the entire board's resignation last week, CSA now has Rihan Richards as acting president of the member's council (the highest decision-making authority in South African cricket) and the interim board, put in place after intervention by sports minister Nathi Mtethwa and chaired by justice Zak Yacoob.
It is, therefore, unclear who will be CSA's voice at the ICC but the interim board "is of the view that one of its members ought to represent South Africa at the ICC". A frontrunner for that role is Haroon Lorgat, the former ICC and CSA CEO, who is well-versed with ICC meetings.
Lorgat is also part of a subcommittee, which includes former Western Province CEO Andre Odendaal and former South African Cricketers' Association president Omphile Ramela, whose job will be to engage with the members' council over a proposed restructure to the domestic game. In January, the members' council rescinded its decision to scrap the franchise tier of the current system and revert to a 12-team provincial structure, as existed pre-2004.
The SACA had opposed that proposal in court, saying it would result in 70 cricketers losing their jobs. Since then, CSA has not made any public statements about how domestic cricket would look in the 2021-22 summer. This season's fixtures have been cut, with each franchise first-class team playing seven instead of ten matches. The T20 competition would be played as a single round instead of each franchise playing home and away, in a double round. Although the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the start of the season, CSA's shortened domestic summer is also the result of financial constraints, with the organisation forecasting losses over this four-year cycle.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent