CSA’s new franchise-based T20 league has been named “SA20”, Graeme Smith, the tournament commissioner, announced in a press interaction on Wednesday. He also confirmed that the player auction for the inaugural season, to be played in January-February 2023, will be held on September 19.
The six teams – all owned by groups that own teams in the IPL – have already signed between two and five players apiece from a pool of marquee players as part of the direct-acquisition process. The franchises have an overall purse of US$2 million and can buy as many more players as they can, or want, with the maximum squad strength set at 17.
The money available to them at the auction will be based on what is left of the purse after acquiring the pre-auction players [the five included a maximum of three overseas players, one a South African international, and one an uncapped South African player]. In total, franchises will be permitted to sign up to seven international players and ten South Africans, with a view to fielding an XI with a maximum of four internationals and seven South Africans, the same format as in the IPL.
The league is currently working through player registrations and will present the franchises with a shortlist of candidates ahead of the auction.
Smith said they had received an “immense amount” of interest from players, both local and overseas, despite the calendar congestion. The SA20 will clash with both the Australian BBL and the UAE’s ILT20 as well as the BPL in Bangladesh. While the ILT20 will rely on a majority of internationals, the BBL has a similar structure to the SA20 [with a maximum of three internationals in each XI]. Player overlaps between tournaments might become inevitable.
To deal with clashing contractual obligations, Smith has met with organisers of the ILT20, and the two players signed to both the BBL and SA20 – Liam Livingstone and Rashid Khan – have made themselves available for only part of the BBL, because they had signed with CSA first.
“The Big Bash has created a different structure where they have allowed players to play for a portion of the Big Bash. The players that have signed for our league will be there [Australia] for the first couple of days of January and then they will come across to South Africa,” Smith said. “They will be here when their team owners require them in South Africa. They will be available fully for the South African league.”
“It will bring a lot of expertise into our game. It’s going to bring financial support that hopefully will benefit all forms of the game in South Africa and keep us relevant in the international game. We don’t see it as an issue for Test cricket. We see it as an issue of growing South African cricket and keeping it strong”Graeme Smith, SA20 commissioner
The headlines have obviously been grabbed by the big international names, but the CSA’s focus is also on developing local players.
“We’ve been able to attract some big international names to our league. You can see in the pre-signing with Rashid Khan, Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone and the like. We’ve got some real quality but the difference for us is that we focus on South African talent as well,” Smith said. “There will be 60 or 70 SA players on a global platform with their storylines. We’ve seen how that’s benefitted Indian cricket in the IPL and it’s gone to benefit their all-format cricket. We are hoping we will be able to create the same in South Africa.”
The SA20, however, has been cited as one of the main reasons for CSA downscaling on Tests in the next FTP, in which South Africa play no Test series of three or more matches in the 2023-2025 World Test Championship cycle.
With the prime summer period in January-February now occupied by the SA20, and the IPL due to start in mid-March, South Africa’s Test – and by extension their first-class – window will have to be earlier in the season, in September-December. And concerns around the quality of the red-ball game have already been expressed.
However, Smith, also South Africa’s most successful Test captain, does not see the league as having a negative effect on the longer format.
“These are things everyone grapples with in the international game – the growth of T20 and trying to understand how all the formats fit in. It’s an interesting debate and discussion going forward,” he said. “Every year, South Africa has played a T20 tournament. Now it’s just got to a level that elevates it to a standard that we see across the world.
“It will bring a lot of expertise into our game. It’s going to bring financial support that hopefully will benefit all forms of the game in South Africa and keep us relevant in the international game. We don’t see it as an issue for Test cricket. We see it as an issue of growing South African cricket and keeping it strong.”
CSA will try not to have any international matches when the SA20 is on, but in the first year, it will coincide with three ODIs against England. The matches were postponed from late 2020 and form part of the World Cup Super League. South Africa lie outside the automatic qualification zone and will forfeit points to Australia in January 2023 – they are not playing those matches because it would clash with the league. So they cannot afford not to host England.
In subsequent years, the FTP sees some fixture clashes with the SA20, such as an England tour in early 2026, but schedules may be tweaked to allow CSA to keep the league window free.
CSA also intends to launch a women’s version of the SA20 in the future, but have not been able do it from the outset because of the T20 World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in February 2023. “It’s 100% in our plans,” Smith said. “In year one, with the Women’s World Cup starting directly post the new league, it wasn’t viable. It’s definitely in our plans to begin one as soon as possible.”
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