JOHANNESBURG – The 2018/19 domestic season once again has a schedule with a gaping hole in the middle of it, with local franchises, like the rest of the populace having to wait until the middle of September to know if they must prepare for a T20 competition.
Whether that is the long ago publicised, new version of the T20 Global League or the local, what for now is being called T20 Challenge, is the mystery.
Cricket SA officials remain optimistic it will be the competition with some overseas stars in it, although last Friday’s lengthy statement from the federation made that probability appear to be ‘50-50.’
The domestic season will kick off officially in the last week of September with the first match of four rounds of the Sunfoil Series, pitting the reigning champions the Titans against the Dolphins at SuperSport Park. That portion of the four day tournament will run until the end of October, before the competition goes on hiatus until December.
The period in between is supposed to be filled with CSA’s new T20 tournament, but as yet there are no teams nor any schedule for that event. Cricket SA was shifting through bids, received from its provincial affiliates for potential host venues for that new six-team competition. The federation has given itself until mid-September to arrive at “a final outcome,” as far as that competition is concerned.
According to the schedule published on Monday the local T20 Challenge - known as the RamSlam last season - will be played in April with the final set to take place on May 5 2019, which would be the end of the season.
However Cricket SA may repeat the schedule change they performed last season when the T20 Global League was cancelled and move that T20 Challenge to fill the hole in November and the first half of December.
No official communication has been made to the franchises about whether to change their plans as far as preparing for the T20 Challenge - which would feature the current six franchises; the Knights, Titans, Lions, Warriors, Dolphins and Cape Cobras - but one franchise official said it would not be a big problem for them to do so, because the mid-September deadline would leave coaches with sufficient time to prepare their players.
The T20 Challenge would be taking place at the same time as the Indian Premier League which is due to start on March 29.
The Momentum One-Day Cup will be played in February and March, running concurrently with the One-Day series with Sri Lanka. Cricket SA’s hinted that the Proteas who are bound for the World Cup could play in the latter stages of that competition - including the play-offs - as part of preparation for the World Cup.
“The semi-finals and Final will take place immediately after the conclusion of the white-ball part of our home series against Sri Lanka to assist in the preparation for the World Cup,” CSA chief Thabang Moroe said.
The national men’s team has a busy summer ahead of it too, starting at the end of September with a short three match ODI series against Zimbabwe.
The Proteas will play three ODIs in Australia in November following which there will be in-coming series’s across all three formats against Pakistan and then Sri Lanka.
* Meanwhile, the Willowton Group, which owns Sunfoil, announced on Monday afternoon that it would no longer sponsor cricket in the country.
Sunfoil had been the sponsor of the domestic four-day competition, and was name sponsor for Test cricket on South African soil
“This has been a very rewarding partnership which has seen Willowton Group promoting cricket both at a national and international level,” said Mohamed Zubeir Moosa, Chief Executive Officer for Willowton Group.
“After years of involvement with Cricket South Africa, we have mutually decided to focus on other areas of opportunity. We will continue to discuss these opportunities with Cricket South Africa in this regard.”