Haroon Lorgat, CEO Cricket South Africa during the 2017 Africa T20 Launch at the The Gallery Wanderers Stadium, South Africa. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

DURBAN – It may not be India, but cricket fans will still see festive season international cricket at the end of the year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed this week.

“One way or another, we will be playing a Boxing Day Test this year,” CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat said on Friday.

India, the money-bags of world cricket, have already unfurled a crammed fixture list, which will see them engaged in home matches until the latter part of December.

That leaves South Africa nervously waiting for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to finalise what is supposed to be a three-match Test series tour, followed by limited-overs engagements.

“They are still definitely touring, but the starting date is still a challenge due to their itinerary,” Lorgat said. “We will make alternate arrangements if we have to, but we will play a Boxing Day Test to start our international season.”

That would leave the door open for a somewhat curious one-off Test match, with possible opponents ranging from the under-employed Pakistan team to, intriguingly, newly-promoted full-members Ireland or Afghanistan.

Whoever the opponents are, they will have to be given ample warning, though any of the three would probably be happy to play in such a prime fixture. The New Year’s Test in Cape Town is traditionally South Africa’s best fixture, and it is anticipated India would still be happy to honour the fixture.

Lorgat also raised an eyebrow at rumours that the Boxing Day Test was going to be moved from Durban to Centurion.

“It’s just rumours,” he said. “A lot of people are talking about that fixture, and they should be.”

Port Elizabeth has been afforded the chance to replace Durban before, but it has often been hit by terrible weather, and attendances that are just as dismal.

Meanwhile, the likes of Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw and Colin Ingram may well be playing in South Africa by the end of the year, after Lorgat confirmed the Kolpak players were welcome to participate in the latest T20 offering in world cricket.

The T20 Global League player draft will not exclude those players who have sought greener pastures in the UK, and they will register as overseas players. 

The draft was initially scheduled for next weekend, but it has been moved to the last weekend of August, in Cape Town. 

Ahead of the draft, there will be an official gala dinner to herald the competition’s passage into the home straight, ahead of the November 3 start.

“The draft is open to Kolpak players, too, and we have actually increased the number of overseas players in each squad to five players. That will see the size of each squad increase to 18, to ensure that we still provide ample opportunities for local players,” Lorgat said at a media gathering with Fawad Rana, the owner of the newly-named Durban Qalanders.

Rana, who also owns the Lahore Qalanders, expressed hope that his side would include a few players from his native Pakistan, but also added that he would not be interfering with the plans of his coaching staff, led by Paddy Upton.

Pakistan, currently the ICC Champions Trophy holders after a stirring comeback in England in June, have several players who would be highly-coveted in the player draft.

As it stands, there are over 400 players who have registered their interest to play in the competition.

Lorgat also explained that the T20 Global League would always hold its final on December 16, at The Wanderers in Johannesburg.

“We have committed to hosting a final at The Wanderers every year. That is fixed, and we will always work backwards to the start date.

“This year that is November 3, and we want to keep it (the final) that way,” Lorgat explained.

Ten years after the Indian Premier League changed the cricket landscape forever, South African cricket chiefs remain bullish about their own competition, despite reservations about elements of governance from some corners.

“There is huge interest, and I think people will realise what we have once the competitions starts. We have had offers from around the world from sponsors, and also from prospective broadcasters around the world,” Lorgat revealed.

The next stage in the T20 Global League is the player draft, as well as the distribution of the eight marquee overseas players, which will all unravel on the bumper weekend of August 26-27.

Sunday Tribune

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