Cricket SA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki has stressed that the Proteas’ Test tour to New Zealand next year will “under no circumstances” be cancelled due to the pending clash with Betway SA20.
The New Zealand Cricket Association released their home schedule on Tuesday, which has the Proteas playing a three-day warm-up match from 29 - 31 January in Christchurch before two Test matches against the Black Caps from 4 – 8 February at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui and 13 – 17 February at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
Both Test matches form part of the new World Test Championship cycle.
The tour falls directly in the window that has been allocated for South Africa’s premier T20 franchise tournament Betway SA20, which ran from January 10 until February 12 last year.
Cricket SA set a precedent last season when the Proteas returned home after the Sydney New Year Test due to having withdrawn from the scheduled ODI series against hosts Australia in order for all the national team players to fulfil their franchise commitments at the start of the inaugural Betway SA20 season.
The withdrawal put the Proteas’ chances of automatic qualification for this year’s ICC World Cup in jeopardy, which they eventually managed after securing home series wins over world champions England and the Netherlands.
The Betway SA20 Season 2 fixtures are yet to be released, but it can only potentially start after the conclusion of the home New Year Test against India at Newlands in Cape Town that is due to run until January 7.
This will once again leave Cricket SA with a major dilemma as the six Betway SA20 franchises - all affiliated to the Indian Premier League - have a commitment from Cricket SA that the national team players will be available for the duration of the Betway SA20.
“That's not something that we're actually even considering currently (withdrawing from the New Zealand tour). Under no circumstances are we considering that. But as you can imagine, balancing our FTP (Future Tours Programme) schedule, with the leagues and the shrinking international window has become quite a challenge,” Moseki told Independent Media.
“Sometimes you need the wisdom of Solomon, just to manage that. But yes, there's likely to be a clash between SA20 and the New Zealand tour. Finding the balance from really competing interests can become a challenge.
“Obviously SA 20 is our baby. And like you know, I’ve bet my future on it so I'm not suddenly going to allow it to crumble. Obviously there's quite a lot of balancing acts that will need to happen.”
Moseki was non-committal on the Proteas possibly touring New Zealand with an under-strength Test side, but stressed that greater clarity on the composition of the squad would be able to be gauged after the SA20 mini-auction in September.
“If you recall a few months ago, we basically drew a line in the sand on the importance of the SA20. But on the other side, we also have some commitments to the FTP,” he said.
“We still have a few months before we need to make any hard decisions. The auction for the SA20 is scheduled for the end of September. So based on that, then we'll obviously need to see like, okay, what is the impact on like, you know, the like the actual players that will be going on the New Zealand tour?”
The Proteas last Test squad which beat the West Indies 2-0 at home in March featured just three players - Dean Elgar, Tony de Zorzi and Keegan Petersen - that were not part of the hugely-successful inaugural Betway SA20 season.
Test captain Temba Bavuma was not initially picked up at the auction, but was later signed by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape as a replacement player where he went to play a role in their ultimately victorious campaign.
The Proteas have previously fielded an under-strength Test team against Bangladesh last year at home when a group of players left early to fulfil their Indian Premier League commitments.
Betway SA20 Commissioner Graeme Smith was unavailable for comment as he's currently on a flight to the United States of America to commentate at the Major League Cricket tournament.