JOHANNESBURG - South Africans’ propensity to consume T20 cricket will be put to the test next season with four domestic 20-over competitions on the schedule, including Cricket SA’s highly anticipated T20 Global League.
Tuesday saw the launch of the Africa T20 tournament, which is heading for its third season, while in addition to it and the glitzy new franchise city-based tournament, there will also be the usual T20 Challenge competition between the now traditional six franchises and the provincial T20 competition, involving 14 provinces, including Namibia.
If that looks like T20 overkill, time will tell. This season, even when the Proteas rested all their top stars for the three T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka, the three venues were all sold out.
“There is always a risk of having too much,” Cricket SA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said at the draw of the Africa T20 Cup. “Somewhere you have to say there is enough competition for all the players to get access to opportunities. That is the driver for us, though; is there enough opportunity and access for players to play?”
While great strides have been made in broadening the player base through CSA’s transformation initiatives, one major hurdle has been the “bottleneck effect” that’s taken hold between the various age group levels and the senior professional ranks.
“We’ve got a base that is growing, as we transform, as we succeed with our transformation and development programmes there are more players coming to the fore. They need opportunities to shine. Either you go up to 10 franchises or you raise the level of what we’ve got and that’s what we’ve chosen to do,” Lorgat explained.
Instead of creating another franchise - an option that remains on the table, but for the foreseeable future has been nudged to one side - CSA will aim to make the provincial level, just below the franchises, more professional.
“What was previously termed semi-professional, we want to move away from that, we want to make that professional,” said Lorgat. “It used to be only seven contracts per province in that system, and it’s arguable whether those contracts could sustain an individual, playing cricket, full-time. We want to take our resourcing and lift up that level instead of just opening a seventh franchise.
"We want to take the same money we could have used for a seventh franchise and uplift that (provincial) level into a more competitive and challenging environment for players to make a career out of.”
Doing so would eliminate any drama about where to locate a seventh franchise - something that has proved controversial in the past -while also providing a bridge between the age-group ranks and the franchise tier. Lorgat hoped it would also lessen any temptation there may be for a young player, wanting to take his talent overseas.
“It will help to make players believe they can use that tier to sustain themselves until they crack the franchise level and ultimately the national team. Hopefully it will achieve many of our objectives which includes not making people’s minds wander abroad.”
Meanwhile, Lorgat added that he was delighted with the progress being made in establishing the new T20 competition. “The interest in our new league has been simply amazing and we are confident of staging one of the best T20 professional leagues in the world.”
The process of acquiring team ownership is presently under way with the closing date for bidder proposals being April 28.
The new competition, which will run from the first week in November until December 16, will consist of eight-city based franchises, located at one of the 11 international venues in the country. Squads of 17 will contain four overseas internationals, while eight “marquee” Proteas players will be spread around the franchises.