Former South Africa wicketkeeper, in Abu Dhabi as coach of Multiply Titans, backs franchise game as breeding ground for young stars
Mark Boucher says franchise tournaments like Abu Dhabi T20 vital for the game
Mark Boucher says one need only look at Abu Dhabi to see how far franchise cricket has taken the game.
The former South Africa wicketkeeper is in the capital as coach of Multiply Titans, one of six teams competing in the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy, and he has absolutely no doubt where he stands on the international cricket v league-and-franchise cricket debate.
Boucher himself played on the big stage at a time – between 1997 and 2012 – when international cricket dominated popular imagination. While that may still be the case, more and more players are beginning to focus on their franchise careers.
In recent times, many South African cricketers opted out of first-class cricket to play in the many Twenty20 tournaments being organised around the world.
“It does contribute a lot, and it makes the pool of players a lot bigger and stronger,” said the veteran of 147 Tests, 295 one-day internationals and 25 T20 internationals.
'Players are making good money'
Boucher reckons franchise and international cricket are complimentary, pointing to the Indian experience.
“We have seen that with the IPL [Indian Premier League], how much it has affected Indian cricketers," he said. "Their selection panel has got very good cricketers to choose from."
Referring, perhaps, to such players as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who made their India debut after shining in the IPL, Boucher said: “I think that [the self-confidence] largely comes from the IPL – playing with international superstars and picking up some information from them.
"It is inspiring for the young Indians."
The keeper who holds the record for most catches in Tests – 532 – says financial compensation is a huge plus. "Players are making good money. These things will not happen at international cricket," the 41-year-old stumper said.
"But at franchise level it will reach everywhere - like it has come to Abu Dhabi,” he added about the game's reach.
Indeed, the capital has become a hub for not just international cricket, but also high-profile club cricket. The IPL and the Pakistan Super League have been staged at Zayed Cricket Stadium, while the Abu Dhabi T20, Afghanistan Premier League and the UAE T20x will all be played here.
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Waiting to assess conditions
Boucher has picked a full-strength 14-man squad for the three-day tournament, which has drawn the teams into two groups. The round-robin matches will be played over three days, with the top two progressing to the final on Saturday.
The Titans face Afghanistan side Boost Defenders on Friday before they take on Auckland Aces on Saturday, and how his players respond to the conditions is something that excites Boucher.
“We’ll have to wait until we get there to assess the conditions,” said the man who has played in the Emirates on two tours as part of the Proteas team. “It is about performing out there in this heat, and we will see how we can handle it.
"We are looking to take as much experience as possible from this tournament. One thing that will be for certain is it can improve our game, playing in these conditions,” he added.
The Titans have won four out of six trophies under Boucher, and the coach believes they are the most successful franchise at the moment.
“We have a lot of players who have played a lot of IPL cricket, so it is a nice mix of youth and experienced players out here,” he said.
“The Titans are the probably the biggest producer of Proteas as a franchise," he also said, pointing to captain Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Theunis de Bruyn and Dean Elgar.
Passela's guide to Abu Dhabi T20: Teams, fixtures, tickets and all you need to know
Proteas underdogs in World Cup
Boucher does not fancy South Africa’s chances at the 50-overs World Cup in the United Kingdom next year, but added it could be a blessing in disguise.
"I think we are complete underdogs this time, and I think we are nowhere near the best teams," he said, before adding: "It is a good space to go in out there and surprise a few."
Boucher says if the Proteas can somehow reach the semi-finals, they may have a sniff.
"We have to be at our best to get to a semi-final stage, then who knows," he said. "One good inning can win the day for you."
Boucher says he has not given any thought about coaching South Africa some day.
“My heart and soul is in this team as of now,” he said. “Where I’m going to be in two years’ time, I’m not sure.
"Maybe I will be able to answer that at that time.”
Multiply Titans squad
Albie Morkel (c), Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Henry Davids, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Andrea Agathagelou, Tony de Zorzi, Eldred Hawken, Gregory Mahlokwana, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Tshepo Moreki, Alfred Mothoa, Shaun von Berg.