The T20 Champions League, being hosted in South Africa, has gotten off to a rollicking start, as both the Titans and Highveld Lions keeping local spirits high with fine victories over the Perth Scorchers and Mumbai Indians respectively.
Fortunate enough to cover both games on the Highveld, one could see the crowds came for the South African teams, with foreign support for the likes of the IPL teams notwithstanding.
Centurion (read SuperSport Park) enjoyed a stunning day while the Wanderers purred with excitement by the time the Lions began their first group game on Sunday. More a graveyard than crucible when empty or lightly filled, it came as a pleasant surprise how full both stadia were considering the deluge of T20 cricket the public have had to endure over the last couple of months.
For the Champions League masters, it’s important the South African sides remain in the hunt for as long as possible as full stadia look far better on TV then they do empty. Also, the longer the Titans and Lions are involved, the greater the local press interest, since it is South African feet on the ground which will decide whether this tournament is a commercial success or not (though it is looking more rosier since the weekend).
On the field, knowing local conditions are helping the South African teams, while the IPL sides have again struggled. Is it because they are away from home or rather overcooked following the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka? There is far to go in this tournament, so picking the winner now is a handsome task for braver men.
Still, for a tournament seen as a hit and giggle in some quarters, local interest has been refreshing. If only four-day games received as much attention, because that is where a large chunk of the Proteas Test teams’ strength comes from.