The 2019 Mzansi Super League (MSL 2.0) excitement reached fever pitch as the franchises battled it out to secure their preferred players at this year’s draft
If the live player draft held at Soweto’s Walter Sisulu Square in Soweto yesterday was anything to go by, the stakes are high and the teams are poised to deliver five weeks of high-octane T20 fun. In only its second year, the tournament is already one of the leading T20 cricket brands in the world with local rising talent, Standard Bank Proteas big names and international stars applying to take part.
The teams had a chance to revisit their squads from last season and then beef up their numbers with other players on their wish list. Each team entered the draft with a big-name Proteas player and international Marquee player. Thirteen players were chosen on the day, and another player will be chosen when the provincial T20 tournament wraps up. This means each team will have a squad of 16 players.
There were a few highlights during the draft. One was Temba Bavuma heading to the bullring from Durban Heat where he played last season. Nono “People’s Champion” Pongolo was retained by the defending champions, the Jozi Stars.
Paarl Rocks could barely hide their excitement, as they seemed to land every player they were eyeing at the start of the draft. When it came to teams being able to match offers from other teams, Cape Town Blitz certainly attracted attention when they wasted no time in preventing Jozi Stars from snatching George Linde.
Most teams were tactical, opting for experience first before chasing the new talent halfway through the selection process.
Cape Town Blitz head coach Ashwin Prince made no bones about the fact that he was chasing the title. “We finished second last year and the plan is to do much better this season. It’s tough because everyone in the room hoped to get the best players to ensure they will come out on top,” he said.
2018 Mzansi Super League player of the tournament Quinton de Kock says the tournament is very important for the country. “It’s an exciting tournament and it is good for the game as it brings to the fore some of the younger players that we wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to. It also forces the senior players to also step-up and perform at their best. No one is guaranteed a starting berth here – it is anyone’s game.”
Gary Kirsten, Durban Heat head coach, was pragmatic, saying the nature of a draft means there is an element of unpredictability, but that he was happy and eager to get started. “We spent some time as the technical team assessing our squad and looked at which players to secure for this year’s tournament. We came to the draft with the view of getting the bulk of the team we wanted, but the trick about drafts is that you get what you can, and then make the most of it. I am happy with the team that we have assembled and now we can get ready to compete!”
Cricket South Africa (CSA) Chief Executive Thabang Moroe gave the Mzansi Super League his endorsement. “I am very happy with how the draft went today. All the franchises came here really prepared to put their hands up and get the best players for the tournament.”
The games will be played over a five-week period starting on 8 November with the final scheduled to take place on 16 December.