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The first-ever MSL season in 2018 featured six teams, each representing a city, as is the norm in franchised cricket these days.
The half a dozen sides comprised Cape Town Blitz, Durban Heat, Jozi Stars, Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, Paarl Rocks and Tshwane Spartans. Reports from that time indicate that as many as 200 international players, big and small, had made themselves available for selection for the inaugural player draft.
Among the foreign players that got picked were names such as Rashid Khan, Chris Gayle, Eoin Morgan, Dwayne Bravo and Jason Roy.
Some T20 leagues tweak the tournament format a bit in order to add their own little touch, and Mzansi Super League is one of them. In a standard six-team tourney, you would expect at least four to make the playoffs but in MSL, only three qualification spots are made available.
With just three teams having advanced, you would expect there to be an IPL-style qualifier, since the twin semi-finals format is out of question due to unavailability of the fourth team. But in MSL, the top team of round-robin stage goes directly to the tournament final, whereas the second and third-placed teams play a single qualifier, robbing the fans of extended playoffs excitement.
Even in round-robin stage, the MSL awards four points to match winners, which is a deviation from the standard two-point system in operation elsewhere. Furthermore, there is a bonus point system in place, which rewards the winning team an extra point, if their run rate is 1.25 times better than that of the losing team.
It really bloats up the points table and gives the league a bigger look than it really is, especially when you consider that a typical MSL season stages 32 matches, which is lower than what other tournaments do around the world.
One could say this is a nice little trick by the MSL think tank.
The 2018 MSL, the first one of its kind, saw Cape Town Blitz, Jozi Stars and Paarl Rocks finish one, two and three respectively at the conclusion of round robin stage.
Cape Town, on the base of their top finish, went straight to the final. Meanwhile, the single-match playoffs became zero-match playoffs as the eliminator between Jozi Stars and Paarl Rocks was washed out due to rain. Jozi Stars were given the final berth on account of them having finished second in the round robin stage.
In the final, Jozi Stars dominated, beating Cape Town by seven wickets to become the first-ever MSL champions.
The MSL, despite a sizable foreign interest at draft time, saw its franchises use more local talent than outsiders. It is why the runs and wickets charts were full of local talent, with the only foreigner to crack either chart’s top 5 being Spartans’ Jeevan Mendis from Sri Lanka. He was the second-highest wicket taker of the tournament behind Duanne Oliver (20 wickets).
Jozi Stars’ Rassie van der Dussen, meanwhile, finished as the highest scorer, with 469 runs to his name.
The 2019 MSL was a nightmare tournament for defending champions Jozi Stars. They failed to win any of their 10 matches, of which three were abandoned.
Talking about abandonments, the MSL 2019 was severely affected by rain, with as many as eight matches washed out. No other tournament in recent history has had such an experience.
As Jozi Stars remained winless and finished last, their fellow 2018 finalists, Cape Town Blitz, also missed out on the playoff, finishing just one place above.
Paarl Rocks, thanks to their top position, went straight to the final, whereas Tshwane Spartans beat Nelson Mandela Bay Giants in the eliminator.
The final was one-sided as the Rocks triumphed and took the crown from 2018 champs Jozi Stars.
The 2020 tournament was scrapped due to Covid-19 but the MSL is set to return later this year.
The MSL is a young tournament that has also missed a season so it’s difficult to identify betting patterns. However, a cursory look at squads shows that the defending champions Paarl Rocks, in the 2019 edition, had quite a few oldies, including their 26-year-old captain Faf du Plessis and 41-year-old Henry Davids, and conventional wisdom says they may not be able to be that way for long.
Cape Town Blitz and Jozi Stars are led by Quinton de Kock and Tenda Bavuma respectively – younger men who have experienced national captaincy recently and also have decent squads. If these sides do well in MSL 2021, it won’t be surprising. They have the leadership and the tools.