After three failed attempts to stage a world-class T20 competition, Cricket South Africa (CSA) is confident that its new event will become second in stature after the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The organization’s hopes have been boosted by the fact that the six new teams that will play in the league have all been bought by groups that have franchises in the IPL.
That should open a path into India’s economically lucrative market – although the South African international’s fortunes may be affected by the new tournament, set to start in January next year.
Competing against the IPL and the Big Bash League in Australia, CSA President Lawson Naidoo believes the combination of experience and influence provided by their new partners has the potential to take cricket in South Africa to new levels.
“We see this as a huge vote of confidence in the league with the quality of the owners we have been able to attract,” Naidoo told BBC Sport Africa.
“They all have a long association with T20 cricket and understand how to achieve success in a league like this.
“It shows that it was the right decision the CSA made to create this league and with the right partners, which we believe we have in common, this will be something that will change the face of cricket in South Africa in the years to come.
“This is the opportunity for us to create the second best T20 league in the world. Looking at our partners, it is clear that we will benefit from the experience they bring from the IPL.”
South Africa’s cricket has had its fair share of off-court trouble in recent years, but the CSA said the new, as-yet-to-be-named tournament attracted bids from 29 entities around the world before it confirmed the six franchisees last month.
Reliance Industries, owner of the Mumbai Indians, will own a team based at the picturesque Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town, while the owners of the Chennai Super Kings have won the rights to a team that will be based at South Africa’s largest cricket ground, Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
The owners of the Delhi Capitals will have a team in Centurion, the Lucknow Super Giants in Durban, Sunrisers Hyderabad in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and the Rajasthan Royals in Paarl, 40 km east of Cape Town.
Graeme Smith, the former South African captain who has been named commissioner for the tournament, says the new league provides a “really exciting time” for the game in the country.
He added, “The high interest shows that the country continues to be prized in the global cricket ecosystem.”
Talent development after previous failures
In 2017, the CSA’s attempt to launch the Global League T20, which also had IPL holders but no confirmed broadcaster, was thwarted before the watered-down Mzansi Super League – which was actually delivered to the national broadcaster for free in 2018 and 2019 – just two seasons.
This time around, there’s a solid broadcast deal with the innovative South African-based pay channel SuperSport, which took 30% of the tournament as well as the TV rights.
CSA, with 57.5%, is the majority shareholder in the new controlling entity known as Africa Cricket Development (ACD). Other partners include former IPL founding COO Sundar Raman as well as the six new franchisees.
Smith, who did not reapply for the position of CSA Cricket Director when his two-year contract expired in March, has been at odds with the board after facing allegations of racism stemming from Social Justice and Nation Building Hearings (SJN).
He was the former captain of the Proteas She was cleared of all three charges a month later by an independent jury.
Credited with persuading India to go ahead with their South Africa tour last December and January amid concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic, the 41-year-old has been appointed for his global standing in the world of cricket.
“I am deeply committed to the game of cricket in South Africa and I am happy to do the best I can,” Smith said.
Smith believes that the T20 League will be a “highly competitive product” that will bring in much-needed investment and provide new opportunities for local talent and foreign players.
Meanwhile, Naidoo says the new franchise owners have all contractually committed to running development programs in South Africa for local players.
The Proteus World Cup venue is in danger
Such is the premium that the CSA has paid to make its new project a success that it has risked its national men’s team participating in the 50-plus World Cup in India.
Struggling in eleventh place in the Premier League, the Proteas Withdrawn from three one-day internationals (ODIs) Scheduled against Australia on January 12 and 17 next year – all 30 points on offer will be forfeited.
This was done to ensure that all local players were available for the new league.
This series was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but the pandemic has seen it reorganize to track the series of three tests that are due to end in Sydney on January 8, 2023.
“We have put forward various options to reschedule those games, essentially offering them so that we can leave Australia immediately after the Sydney test,” Naidoo said.
“It didn’t work because it wasn’t a good fit for Australia.
“We were faced with the choice of continuing with the ODI matches or starting a new T20 league without our top players. It is important to have our best players available for the tournament to ensure it starts on a strong foundation.
“It is clearly not an ideal situation and it is a difficult decision for us to make. We have discussed it and the position we have taken is that this is in the long-term interest of SA Cricket.
“We need to build a strong local association in order to be able to create new sources of income to ensure financial sustainability.”
South Africa faces the real possibility of losing the automatic World Cup qualification reserved for the top seven in the Premier League table plus hosts India.
If they end up outside the top eight, Proteas will have to book their ticket to the tournament by finishing second in next year’s qualifiers which could include the West Indies and Sri Lanka as well as Ireland, the Netherlands and hosts Zimbabwe.