464 minutes, 367 deliveries, and 110 runs from almost 6 sessions of batting. This was only part of an enthralling 5 days of cricket between the number one-ranked team in the world, South Africa, and Australia, a country that has lost only 2 home Test series in the past 2 decades.
Make no mistake about it, this was a 10 out of 10 performance from both teams and it provided viewers with huge amounts of drama
The purists will no doubt have enjoyed such a match.
The suits, however, will tell you that T20 cricket is where the future (and the money) of the game lies. They will say this based on the belief that the general public just does not have enough time to watch five consecutive six-hour days of cricket which may or may not result in one team winning. They will justify this by stating that Test cricket does not meet the relevance of a generation for whom option, speed and simplicity are the most important things. Whether that is true or not, one can see the logic in their thinking.
The legendary Premier Soccer League chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, highlighted this view at the launch of Q-innovation saying, “Ours has become a world of instant gratification where ‘now’ is the only time.”
Using this logic, Dr Khoza devised and subsequently introduced the new innovation, Q-Innovation, which ticks all the boxes: simplicity, speed (it does not take nine months to find a winner), and option (the glory-hunting fan can “switch off” from soccer until the next quarter where each team starts the “quarter” afresh with fair chance at winning).
I must admit, however, that at the moment, I am not a big fan of the Q-innovation. South African soccer clubs already participate in three tournaments (the MTN8, Telkom Knockout, and the Nedbank cup) – and this is excluding the CAF tournaments and the various pre-season tournaments which, unlike in the rest of the world, local fans actually take very seriously. These tournaments provide more than enough speedy and simple routes to glory. The most complicated thing in this process is usually explaining the away-goal rule to a friend in the bar who has had one too many pink drinks.
The Absa Premiership therefore serves as the only competition in the season which is played over different months and seasons whereby teams go through peaks and troughs on the way to success or maybe to relegation. Every match counts even though every match may not have the do-or-die factor. Every win, every point gained, and every goal contributing to a team’s goal difference is important. Similarly – in Test cricket – every session, every over lost to rain, and every dropped catch – as Faf du Plessis will tell you – can mean the difference between not only winning a match but winning a series, and sometimes even mean the difference between becoming the top ranked team in the world. The many twists and turns on the way to success grip viewers’ attention for prolonged periods.
The recent Test match between Australia and the Proteas had South African viewers in despair for most of the five days. with South Africans collectively breathing a huge sigh of relief following the South African batsmen’s resolve to bat out the final day and salvage a an incredible draw. And there is still, potentially, another five days of cricket left in the series to decide the winner of this Test series and decide who leaves with number one position in the world Test ranking. This is what the game is about for the purists.
In the league, unlike in cup competitions, the best team will normally win the trophy. Squad depth and superior man-management over the course of nine months, coupled with injuries, suspensions, momentum, and other factors contribute to the drama that is league football. Every team plays against all the other teams twice – a fair method of determining a champion.
Q-innovation, however, consist of seven or eight matches. Each particular club won’t play against all the other teams in the league.
The obvious advantage in this scenario is that the PSL may manage to keep viewers’ attention over the course of the season instead of only attracting large-scale attention during the final five or six games of the season. Q-Innovation is, essentially, four shorter competitions within one larger competition. Technically, this means eight different local competitions that PSL clubs compete in, thereby satisfying the appetite of the modern consumer who requires speed and simplicity over the marathon of a regular league season.
I do wonder where the changes and the innovations will end. When One Day Internationals were introduced to cricket, many thought that no further serious innovations would be introduced to the game. However, T20 came along and it has revolutionized the sport; offering spectators a game of cricket in less than four hours.
Will we see similar changes occurring in football one day? Will the Q-innovation concept spread across the world and be improved and simplified even more? In twenty years time, will league competitions even exist? Will we live in a world where we have an abundance of tournaments with simple formats providing winners in quick time?
“I have said time and time again that you cannot dry today’s washing with yesterday’s sun. – Irvin Khoza
Make of this statement what you will. It is, however, refreshing to see that the PSL chairman is open to innovation and change. Soccer competes with other sports and recreational activities for people’s time and money.
In the search for more of the nation’s Randelas, I do hope that the true test of a champion, the league, is never lost.