After three failed attempts to stage a world-class T20 competition, South African Cricket (CSA) believes its new competition will develop into the second-biggest event after the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The group’s hopes have been boosted by the fact that all six of the new teams that will play in the league have been bought by groups with franchises in the IPL.
That should open a path to a lucrative market in India’s economy – although the South African international’s fortunes could be affected by a new tournament scheduled to start in January.
CSA President Lawson Naidoo, who competes with the IPL and Australia’s Big Bash League, believes the combination of experience and influence offered by their new partners has the potential to take South African cricket to the next level.
“We see this as a huge vote of confidence in the league because of the quality of the team owners we are able to attract,” Naidu told BBC Sport Africa.
“They both have long-term links with T20 cricket and they know how to be successful in a league like this.
“This shows that the CSA made the right decision to create this league, and together with the right partners, we believe we have joined, that will change the face of cricket in South Africa for years to come.
“This is our chance to create the second-best T20 league in the world. Given the partners we have, we obviously benefit from the experience they bring to the IPL.”
South African cricket has had its fair share of off-field issues in recent years, but the CSA said the as-yet-unnamed new tournament attracted bids from 29 entities around the world before the six franchise owners were confirmed last month.
Mumbai Indians owner Reliance Industries will own a team at Cape Town’s picturesque Newlands Cricket Ground, while Chennai Super Kings owners will get the rights to a team that It will be located at the Rangers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest cricket stadium.
The respective owners of Delhi Capitals will have a team at Centurion, Lucknow Supergiants in Durban, Sunrisers Hyderabad in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and Rajasthan Royals in Paarl, 40km east of Cape Town .
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who has been appointed tournament commissioner, said the new league provided “really exciting times” for the country’s game.
“The overwhelming interest shows that the country is still valued in the global cricket ecosystem,” he added.
Develop talent after failure
In 2017, the CSA tried to launch T20, a global league that also had an IPL owner but no confirmed broadcaster, before the watered-down Mzansi Premier League (which was actually handed over to national broadcasters for free in 2018 and 2019) was suspended only two seasons.
This time around, a solid broadcast deal has been struck with South Africa-based innovative premium channel SuperSport, who have secured a 30% share of the tournament and TV rights.
CSA owns 57.5% and is the majority shareholder in the new holding entity, African Cricket Development (ACD). Other partners include former IPL founding COO Sundar Raman and six new franchise owners.
Smith, who did not reapply for his CSA position as director of cricket when his two-year contract expired in March, has sparred with the governing body after facing allegations of racism. Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) Hearings.
The former Proteas captain was Cleared of all three counts after one month by an independent arbitration panel.
He persuaded India to continue their South African tour in December and January last year due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic, with the 41-year-old named because of his global standing in the world of cricket.
“I’m deeply committed to South African cricket and would love to serve the game to the best of my ability,” Smith said.
Smith believes the T20 league will be a “very competitive product” that will bring much-needed investment and provide new opportunities for both homegrown talent and foreign players.
Meanwhile, Naidoo said the new franchise owners have all been contractually committed to running development programs for local players in South Africa.
Proteas’ World Cup spot in jeopardy
That’s the price CSA paid to make their new venture a success, so much so that they risked the national men’s team for next year’s Over-50 World Cup in India.
Proteas, struggling in the 11th place in the Chinese Super League Withdrawal from Three One-Day Internationals (ODI) Scheduled against Australia next January 12-17 – give up all 30 points.
This is done to ensure that all local players can play in the new league.
The series was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but the pandemic has restructured it to follow the three Test series scheduled to end in Sydney on January 8, 2023.
“We’ve come up with options to reschedule these games, basically bring them forward so we can leave Australia immediately after the Sydney test,” Naidu said.
“That didn’t work because it didn’t suit Australia.
“The choice we face is whether to keep using these ODIs or start a new T20 league without our leading players. It’s important to have all our best players available to ensure it’s on a strong footing start.
“It’s obviously not an ideal situation, it’s a tough decision we have to make. We discussed it and we took the position that it was in the long-term interest of SA cricket.
“We need to build a strong domestic league so that new revenue streams can be created to ensure financial sustainability.”
South Africa face the real prospect of missing out on the automatic qualifying round for the World Cup reserved for the top seven in the Premier League plus hosts India.
If they finish outside the top eight, the Proteas will have to secure a top-two finish in next year’s qualifiers, which could include the West Indies, Sri Lanka, as well as Ireland, the Netherlands and hosts Zimbabwe.