The evolution of cricket continues apace. The gentlemen’s game, which dates from as early as the 17th century, witnessed its first major change when one-day cricket was introduced in the 1960s.
This was followed decades later by the introduction of the shortest format, Twenty20 (T20) cricket, in the early 2000s.
Test cricket is set to take on another form later this year when Australia look to play New Zealand in a day-night match.
Closer to home, the T20 version will see a few adjustments to the rules when the inaugural Varsity Cup cricket competition launches next month.
Like rugby, football, athletics and other sporting codes which launched events over the past few years, universities from across the country will now also square up against each other to claim bragging rights as the tertiary champions.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to access and play the game in a fun way on all the university campuses,” Cricket SA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said at the launch in Johannesburg yesterday.
“This is an excellent initiative, something that has been a long time coming. We think this will be a massive injection, from a CSA perspective, to varsity cricket and the pipeline of cricket in SA,” CSA general manager and former Proteas coach Corrie van Zyl said.
The tournament will see eight universities – University of Johannesburg, University of the Western Cape, University of Potchefstroom, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Stellenbosch University, University of the Free State, University of Pretoria and University of Cape Town – take each other on in a weeklong T20 competition in Potchefstroom from February 3 to 8.
The competition will add its own innovations to the laws of the game which will include a power play plus over, a strategy break and targets on the side of the field that will yield 10 runs if hit.
In addition to the normal power play, the power play plus over can be called at any time during an innings by the batting side. All runs scored during this over will be doubled, while any wicket lost will cost the batting side five runs.
Both Cricket SA and the organisers of the competition are hopeful that future stars will be unearthed in the competition.
“I’m sure we will have many of our scouts around,” Lorgat said.
“We have got the USSA [University Sports South Africa] week, and the winners from there will progress to this platform, and let us not forget that the Varsity Cup cricket winners will go on to the global event.”
Varsity Sports boss Duitser Bosman said: “I don’t think there’s another sporting code that can unearth talent as quickly as cricket. You might get an 18- year-old hitting two hundreds in the competition and finding himself with an IPL contract next year.
“We are just going to put a lot more talent out there for Cricket South Africa to take and keep us as the best in the world.”
– Chumani Bambani