The T20 Global League is now very real after a weekend of significant movement for the tournament.
Chris Morris was the first name out of the hat in the inaugural T20 Global League Player Draft, held at The Westin Hotel in Cape Town on Sunday.
“It’s life-changing,” the Proteas all-rounder said of the day as a whole.
Morris was the first of the opening round of picks, thus securing a lucrative $135 000 (about R1.75 million) contract to play for the Durban Qalanders on a long, but exciting day for all eight franchises.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be the first pick,” Morris explained.
“It’s humbling. The whole day is life-changing, because players literally change their circumstances overnight. I remember the first time I went through it in the IPL, and I had tears in my eyes. There will definitely be tears in players’ eyes across the country.
“The money is great, obviously, but it is just as exciting for every player. Imagine being a teenager and then suddenly being handed a contract for over R100 000 for six weeks. That’s your varsity degree paid for,” Morris added.
Morris was joined in the Durban line-up by the likes of Pakistani batsman Fakhar Zaman and Kiwi Mitchell McLenaghan.
Morris’ draft pick was quickly followed up by the first surprise of the day, as Cobras and Proteas seamer Dane Paterson was snapped in the opening round for the top dollar.
He will turn out for the Bloem City Blazers, alongside a hard-hitting side that houses Dwayne Smith (West Indies), Theunis de Bruyn and late-comer Chris Jordan from England.
Veteran fast bowler Dale Steyn, who has relocated back to Pretoria, will be back in Cape Town as he has been snapped up by the star-studded Knight Riders, alongside Chris Gayle, JP Duminy and youngster Jason Smith.
While nothing is won on paper, some of the franchises already look seriously ominous, having made some shrewd signings in the draft.
The Pretoria Mavericks, headlined by AB de Villiers and Dwayne Bravo, have a strong South African contingent, including the experience of Morné Morkel, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Farhaan Behardien and Keshav Maharaj.
The Jo’burg Giants, with a strong affiliation to the Delhi Daredevils, acquired the likes of Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo and Vernon Philander, and also look to be a formidable unit.
Aiden Markram was the first rookie to be signed, going to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars.
There were other emerging talents handed an opportunity, such as Clyde Fortuin (Blazers), Ryan Rickelton (Stars) and Kyle Simmonds (Stellenbosch Monarchs).
Meanwhile, teenager Akhona Mnyaka (18) was signed up by the Bloem Blazers, right at the end of the draft.
It is a unique opportunity for all the players involved, as the tournament stipulations accommodate one rookie in each match, as well as a set number of local players.
On Sunday, during a draft that stretched across the entire day, many South African cricketers saw their careers change dramatically.
Phehlukwayo, who was writing his matric finals barely three years ago, was signed for over R1 million, and could scarcely contain his excitement.
“I just wanted to be involved, so to go so early in the draft is just incredible. There are some very interesting teams already, so it should be an amazing competition. I can’t wait for the tournament to start, and to link up with the rest of the Giants,” he said.
The cricket landscape in South Africa has most certainly changed now, and looking at the final list of players in each franchise has made the whole thing a lot more real.
Roll on November 3.