THE RAM SLAM Challenge T20 franchise competition was launched at the end of the 2003/04 season to introduce the newest format of the game to the South African cricketing public and to launch the regional franchise concept at the same time.
That it has exceeded beyond even the wildest expectations on both counts is beyond dispute.
The franchise system has become the bedrock on which Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) strategy to become a leading player in the world is based. It has produced strength versus strength contests that compare favourably with the domestic competitions in Australia, India and England which are generally regarded as having the highest standard of play in the world.
This is borne out by the success of the South Africa A side and the Emerging Squad with both having regularly done extremely well against their counterparts from the afore-mentioned three countries. Since 2009 the best domestic teams from around the world have gone head to head in the Champions’ League and both the Nashua Cape Cobras and the Chevrolet Knights gave as good as they got in the inaugural edition at the start of the 2009/10 season. The following season, when CSA hosted the event, the Chevrolet Warriors reached the final.
The RAM SLAM Challenge has become a runaway favourite with the public in South Africa as it has elsewhere in the world. It has become a cash cow both for the franchises and for the players themselves. As a result domestic attendances have started rising again and the franchises have also been able to cash in from having every game shown live on SuperSport’s television channels.
The competition grew in size as a natural consequence of its popularity when a double round of home and away fixtures was introduced from the 2011/12 season.
From an individual point of view the RAM SLAM Challenge provides a showcase for players outside CSA’s elite list of contracted players to gain Indian Premier League contracts with the almost limitless riches that that competition offers.
The benefits indeed go far beyond the IPL and are to the benefit of South African cricket generally. Six weeks in the IPL can earn a player more than he would in an entire season of county cricket. It means that after a six-week sojourn in India the players can come home and spend the rest of the off-season recovering from niggling injuries, working on little aspects to improve their games and being available for the off-season tours with the South Africa A and SA Academy tours.
At the end of the day it means that South Africa’s second tier of players can earn competitive salaries and embark on serious careers as professional cricketers.
What the RAM SLAM Challenge Series has done more than anything else is to bring a new audience to cricket. It is as much an entertainment concept as a cricketing one and it has become one of the dominant forms of entertainment available in the South African summer.
The current champions are the Sunfoil Dolphins and they and the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras will represent Cricket South Africa in the 2014 edition of the Champions League.