Cricket for Arfica

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

IS it a tournament? Is it a development exercise? It is a marketing gimmick? No, it’s the Arfica T20 Cup.

At least, that’s how the branding spelt Africa when the event was launched in April. Now that the matches are upon us – the first round started in Benoni on Friday – we can only hope that Cricket SA’s (CSA) sloppy spelling isn’t an omen of opaque organisation.

The signs aren’t good. Here, for instance, are the selection hoops to be jumped through for the Africa T20 Cup: “All franchise players will play for the province at which they are contracted although a limit of four has been placed on the number to be fielded at the same time. This limit would not include the contracted Protea  players who are restricted to one in the starting XI. In addition, all teams will be required to field at least two under-21 players.”

And don’t forget that “transformation targets will be the same as that which applies for the CSA semi-professional competitions (six players of colour and three black Africans)”.

Good luck getting six batsmen, a wicketkeeper and four bowlers out of that tangle of red tape.

“Before I put my hand up to be part of it, I had the same questions: what was this story,” former SA fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, CSA’s “ambassador” for the event, said.

“Now I now that we can put our fingers on all of those buttons. It’s about bringing up black talent and highlighting forgotten provinces.

“For instance, the Titans put most of their focus on Northerns in franchise cricket. Now Easterns will also be in the spotlight.

“The television coverage will mean the game will be marketed in those forgotten provinces, and that if youngsters play to their ability they will have a chance of being noticed by their provinces.”

By sundown on Sunday, six matches will have been played. And so on and so forth in Potchefstroom, Kimberley and Bloemfontein for three more weekends. The final is on October 4.

Why “Africa T20 Cup”? Because squads from Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe are playing alongside 13 SA sides.

But, for Ntini, “Cricket is cricket; it doesn’t matter what you play.” He added: “It’s very cold here – there’s no such thing as spring in Benoni yet.”

So what. They make us tough in Arfica.

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