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What you need to know about SA T20 Global League

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SA_T20_Global_League_LogoAfter much hype and speculation, South Africa’s very own big deal T20 league, the ambitiously named ‘SA T20 Global League’, is now officially a thing.

In a launch event hosted in London this week, the teams were revealed confirming the cities involved, the individual team owners and the marquee players involved in them.

Here are the basics that you need to know:

There will be 8 teams in the tournament, based in the following South African locations, with the following local marquee players:

Pretoria – AB de Villiers
Benoni – Quinton De Kock
Johannesburg – Kagiso Rabada
Bloemfontein – David Miller
Durban – Hashim Amla
Port Elizabeth – Imran Tahir
Stellenbosch (Paarl) – Faf Du Plessis
Cape Town – JP Duminy

Two of the teams are ‘locally’ owned, with other owners coming from existing T20 franchises in India and Pakistan, with additional independent owners from Dubai and Hong Kong.

The tournament will essentially last for 6 weeks, with the final to be held on the 16th of December. Prime time summer in South Africa, with the final coinciding when many take their annual end of year holidays.

Those are your basics, here are some other factors to consider.

It’s brand new and totally independent

Though the games will take place at the traditional South African cricketing homes, and the teams will have a similar look to the existing franchises, this tournament and its teams are completely new and independent. Cricket South Africa owns this tournament, but it is very much separate from what is currently happening in South Africa domestically.

The players will be paid by the private teams (in US dollars), and each franchise will run like any other privately owned business. They have essentially purchased a license from Cricket South Africa to have a team in the tournament.

No racial quotas

If you know anything about South African cricket, you will know that each team has to be made up of a certain amount of players of a race other than white. This will not be the case for the privately owned teams in the SA T20 Global League, though Cricket South Africa has requested that the teams keep in mind the need to pick black players where they can.

So the topic has been brought up, but ultimately it’s a non-issue which will disappoint those who feel not enough is being done for racial transformation in the local game.

Who else is playing?

Over 400 cricketers have registered their interest in playing in the tournament. The teams will have an opportunity to bid for these players at an auction in August. The already named marquee players will be joined by a further 8 international players.

They are Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga, Kevin Pietersen, Dwayne Bravo, Brendon McCullum, Kieron Pollard, Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan. Those 8 have yet to be assigned to a team, though there could still be a chance the English players won’t be allowed to play by their country.

SA’s cricketers to finally play domestic cricket

The South African public see very little of their local heroes live. Sure there are the Proteas limited overs and Test matches each year, but these are few and far between when you consider the average fan will only go to the matches in their cities. With them now playing in a domestic league, and being based in the country for a 6 week period each year, the fans will see more of them than ever before.

Improve SA’s chances of an ICC trophy win

This is a big stretch, I know, mostly because the Proteas just seem incapable of ever doing this. But the more their players are exposed to bigger limited overs stages and pressure environments, the better their chances will surely become of breaking their duck.

In all seriousness, this tournament guarantees a South African team will win a trophy in limited overs cricket, and that can only have a positive effect. It will raise the players involved, much like the IPL has done for the Indian national team, and the Pakistan T20 league has just done with the Pakistan national team at the ICC Champions Trophy.

South Africa really, really needs this

To say this is a welcome addition to the South African cricketing landscape is the understatement of the year. Economically, the money and opportunities the tournament will bring to the country is vital as the local currency (Rand) continues to lose ground internationally. The tournament will provide major upgrades to stadia across the country that are in massive need of them.

Local players will get the much needed chance of extra income, something that could limit the amount of South African talent taking Kolpak deals or moving overseas for good. Money aside, the playing opportunities and global exposure South African cricketers will get from such a tournament is priceless, and will significantly increase their chances of playing at a higher level.

It will also give the fans an opportunity to rediscover the live game. Right now, domestic cricket is dying a slow death in South Africa, and some sort of intervention is desperately needed. The SA T20 Global League is just the thing, and if it takes off initially, the amount of good it can do for the local game in years to come will impact hugely on a variety of elements.

But wait, what are the challenges?

A big glitzy T20 league with global aspirations is of course nothing new. The IPL has been going for a decade and is showing no signs of falling away as initially predicted. The Aussies’ Big Bash is also a huge success, Pakistan are also doing their own thing, as is the Caribbean region plus Bangladesh.

To be a great ‘global’ league, you need global players. Chances of getting big ‘current’ names is going to be really slim, and initially the league will really rely on past prime players like Pietersen, Gayle and McCullum. The local stars add a great deal too, and as long as they stay committed, this league just may have enough star power to be successful.

You and I know this as cricket fans, but what about the average South African sports goer? These stadiums need to be filled, and that is no guarantee. The individual franchises will have to do an incredibly effective marketing job of galvanizing the regions to support the cause. It’s a great opportunity, but still rather difficult, especially in the current economy and after the Proteas have been breaking the hearts of SA cricket fans for years now.

The real money is in the TV rights obviously, and this brings us back again to player pull. With no big name Indian players taking part, it doesn’t seem a ratings puller globally. With Indian team ownership in the league though, this could be remedied going forward.

Is it good for the game going forward?

These T20 leagues are the way of the future, and cricket is certainly a global game like nothing else. We can debate the pros and cons of the matter, but it would be fruitless. South Africa are as entitled as any cricketing nation to have a league like this. While it will cannibalize their domestic game somewhat, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

The T20 leagues will keep interest in cricket high around the world and throughout the year. Test cricket will still have a place, and if anything benefit from these leagues, provided the schedules are not conflicting.

So with all that considered, there is nothing else to say other than bring on November!

 

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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