In South Africa growing up, my friends and I would regularly go to Willowmoore Park, Centurion and Wanderers whenever there was an One day game. We would spend hours watching the enthralling and entertaining version of cricket, while playing a bit ourselves in the changeover. We were joined by thousands of other South Africans and this was a common place to watch the likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and many others develop into the International stars they are today.
So with my experienced excitement I went down to Willowmoore Park on Friday, something I have not done in about 5 years, to watch the Dolphins and the Titans in the Momentum One Day Cup. It was an enthralling game which the Dolphins edged through after some classy batting on a tough pitch, but the overwhelming feeling was that of emptiness. That emptiness was the Stadium. A Friday night in Benoni, where they only get two games a season, and maybe 500 people were there to watch. This of course is a problem that is plaguing more than just cricket.
With the emergence of Supersport over the years, sport has never been more accessible than right now. We now watch all manner of live sports from Aussie Football to NBA and the Kenyan Premier League. But when there are three Momentum One Day Cup matches on, we see only one. The problem is that the demand is not big enough for more. South African interest in domestic one day cricket has waned.
Now you cant blame Cricket South Africa here too much, they brought around the franchise system to increase the strength of our domestic game (successfully), they charge the minimal rate for tickets (same as the PSL in fact) and they allow overseas players to glam up our game a bit (Think Graeme Onions, Sohail Tanvir and Owasis Shah). The problem is instant entertainment is in demand where One day cricket only offers slow, gradual entertainment, lasting for 6 hours.
You see we have twitter where we are merely a hashtag, a follow, a retweet or a favourite away from breaking news, from entertainment and from scandal. And of course we have popcorn cricket with the emergence and dominance of T20. The slapstick version of the game may not test the ability of the players to the same degree as ODI or test matches, but it offers the kind of quick entertainment that people are looking for these days. T20 has, in my opinion, taken away much of the interest in the 50 over game.
Of course that is not entirely true as the International team still get full stadiums, but our domestic teams are in a position where we are not filling stadiums and surely not making the money that is needed to keep our quality players in South Africa.
There is no easy solution for this, but surely brands like Momentum are not getting the kind of quality exposure needed to make their sponsorship (A fantastic sponsorship at that) viable for the foreseeable future. If sponsoring a competition is about getting bang for your buck, then unfortunately the One Day Cup in South Africa is not that competition. I don’t have solutions, but I do know that we have a big problem. Domestic one day cricket in South Africa has lost its edge.
Do you have any idea’s how we can save the 50 over game in South African domestic cricket? Let us know your thoughts below.