3-2-1-Action: 3TC is here, but is this Cricket?

Live cricket may soon return to South Africa’s sports screens in the form of a wholly new and explosive made-for-TV format of the game called 3 Team Cricket or 3TC.

Current lockdown regulations allow for professional cricket matches to take place again behind closed doors, but not in government-identified hotspot areas. Cricket SA (CSA) has put forward a proposal to Government for the local professional game to get going again within the parameters of the current lockdown regulations, while also establishing a “Hardship Fund” to assist the local cricket community.

In a first of its kind, and presented by RAIN, the Solidarity Cup will be the showcase event for the brand-new cricket format of 3TCricket, which will see three teams play in a single match split into two halves.

What are the rules of 3TC?

  • Three teams, consisting of eight members each, compete in one single match of 36 overs.
  • These 36 overs are divided into two halves of 18 overs each.
  • Each team bats for one innings of 12 overs, split into two 6-over periods, one in each half of the match. Each 6-over period will be bowled by a different opponent.
  • A team bowls six overs at each of the two other teams.
  • When the seventh wicket of a team’s innings falls, the final batsman will bat out for the rest of the innings and can only score in twos, fours and sixes.
  • Bowlers are allowed a maximum of three overs each at either of the opponents.
  • The result of the game is determined by which team had scored the most runs at the end of the 36 overs. The team with most runs wins Gold, while the next two teams in order win Silver and Bronze respectively.
  • The starting positions will be determined by a draw. The teams rotate from batting to bowling/dugout in the first half. In the second half, teams bat in order of highest score in the first half.

Apart from being geared as an all-action type of game, Mark Nicholas, prominent international cricket commentator and a major role player in 3TC, admitted this experimental format is aimed at generating interest in the game of cricket at grassroots level.  He has been quoted as saying,

I and others have long searched for a format that involves young people and doesn’t leave an outsider struggling down at third man, wondering what he’s doing there.  We searched for a game that embraces all of its players in crucial roles so that they feel that they need to develop all the thinking and character skills that make cricket so special. It’s a perfect game for kids and for clubs who don’t have the resources to put out full 11-man teams in different leagues. This is about an idea that might inspire and entertain in a different way. We truly believe that all formats of the game work and they’ve done so for years. All of them endure and provide interest. If we can unlock this form for a younger audience, we can inspire them to unlock all the joys of the game.

This is a game made to entertain, with fours and sixes aplenty, so as to draw the crowds and bring in much needed revenue, apart from preparing our Protea players for the upcoming T20 World Cup.  Thus it is a game suited to the batters, with the bowlers on a hiding to nothing.  It is another variation of the short (instant) version of the game and it remains to be seen what the purists who are biased towards the fine test match type battle of skills over 5 days will say.  Barry Richards, arguably South Africa’s greatest batting maestro, has already voiced his reservations.

As it stands, the proposed venue is seen to be in Centurion, which is a hotspot of the Corona pandemic in Gauteng, and the date was originally set for 27 June, but the Government has not yet given the green light for it to happen.

Acting CSA chief executive, Jacques Faul, said he was confident that the legal issues could be overcome.  “Hopefully we’ll be playing again at the end of June and we’ll start with the Proteas players, for obvious reasons,” he said.

Graeme Smith, CSA’s director of cricket, revealed that CSA had submitted no less than two return-to-play protocols to Government and had already secured permits for some of the players to travel over provincial borders.

All players and administrators involved will be tested for Covid-19 before allowed at the match, and again 5 days after the match.

Smith noted there would be a debriefing at the conclusion of the event, while Nicholas also said that rules for a 90-over version of the format have already been developed.  That would involve a full complement of 11 players in each team, but currently that would have to be implemented at a later stage due to current social distancing requirements.

Graeme Smith has also been quoted as having said that the composition of these groups was actually a comprehensive and consultative process.

“It was an internal decision between head coach Mark (Boucher), myself and the transformation committee. Everyone’s been involved in it,” he said.

It’s been interesting to select teams for a new format. You’ve obviously tried to make them as balanced as possible and equally competitive. You want to put the best teams on the field.

The three teams for the inaugural match will be

  • the Eagles captained by AB de Villiers,
  • the Kingfishers captained by Kagiso Rabada, and
  • the Kites captained by Quinton de Kock.

The squads are:

Eagles: AB de Villiers, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Andile Phehlukwayo, Sisanda Magala, Junior Dala, Lungi Ngidi.

Kingfishers: Kagiso Rabada, Reeza Hendricks, Janneman Malan, Faf du Plessis, Heinrich Klaasen, Chris Morris, Glenton Stuurman, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Kites: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Jon-Jon Smuts, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje.

The players would assemble three days earlier in what CSA’s medical officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra, described as a “sanitised eco-system”, with all players being tested for Covid-19 when they arrived and again five days after the event.

We’re looking at the minimum number of people being there for the event to happen and be broadcast, which is about 200, said Manjra. We will limit the number of team staff, otherwise it will just be the broadcast personnel, officials, players and stadium staff. There will also be thorough cleaning of the stadium beforehand.

SuperSport is the official broadcast partner of the Solidarity Cup and the match will be broadcast on SuperSport 2.